Ephesians chapter 5 is all about change. It is designed to teach us that we are different from the world around us, and since we are different, we should live lives that are different. The simple truth is that believers should be different from those who do not know the Lord Jesus Christ.
A brief review of the first seven verses of this chapter clearly demonstrate this truth.
• In verse 1, we are commanded to live like God.
• In verse 2, we are commanded to love like God.
• In verses 3-7, we are commanded to leave this world and its ways behind.
• Beginning in verse 8, Paul teaches us why we are to be different.
This is something we need to hear and heed. After all, we are living in this world. There was a time when we were citizens of this world. We lived like they live. We thought like they think. We did what they do. We were part of them. But, when we were saved by the grace of God, we were delivered from our old life of sin, and we were given a new life of righteousness.
While we are delivered from the world, we still possess a deep familiarity with the world and its ways. There is still a part of us, the fleshly part, that still desires the things of the world we left behind when we were saved.
• Beyond that, there is always pressure for the saints of God to be more like the world around them.
• There is overt pressure from advertising, entertainment, and other forms of media for us to do what the world does.
• There is subtle pressure even from people we love who would like to see us behave a little more like them. They would like to see us do the things they do. I have always felt that these folks do what they do because our lifestyle makes them feel guilty about the way they are living.
• There is pressure from the flesh that wants to reach out for the things that it used to do. We might be saved, but there is still a part of us that loves sin and that hates what is holy.
While there is pressure to go back, there is also pressure to go forward. Just as surely as the flesh and the world longs for us to conform to its ways, the Spirit of God and the resurrected spirit within us want us to be transformed so that we might be what God saved us to be, Gal. 5:16-17.
There are a few verses I want to share with you that will make this clearer.
• 1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Rom.12:1–2.
• “For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.” Gal. 5:17.
We live in a hard, dark world, a world that is dominated and driven by sin. In the midst of that darkness and depravity, God has redeemed a people. He has redeemed a people that He expects to be different. He has redeemed a people He has empowered to be different. The rest of this letter to the Ephesians tells us how to make that a reality in our lives.
I. V. 8 HOW WE ARE CHANGED
• What We Were - We “were once darkness.” This means that we were lost and in the darkness of sin and depravity. We were blinded by the god of this world, 2 Cor. 4:4. We lived like every other lost person, and we enjoyed it, Eph. 2:1-3. The sins of verses 4-5 were who we were and what we did. We were enslaved to sin. We knew nothing else. We wanted nothing else. We were lost in the dark and headed to Hell. We lived like the lost people we were.
• What We Are - We “are light in the Lord.” When the Lord saved us, He delivered us from darkness. Col. 1:13 says, “He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love.” When the Lord delivered us from darkness, He set us free from the power of sin. He has changed and made us children of the light. Since we have been changed, we are to walk in light and no longer in the darkness that once characterized us.
Our lives once manifested the works of the world, the flesh and the devil. Sin was a way of life for us. Darkness was where we lived, and what we loved. By the power of grace, the Lord has touched us, saved us, delivered us and changed us. He has brought us out of darkness into His marvelous light “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;” 1 Peter 2:9.
Since that is true, we are to “walk as children of light.” How do we do that? We do that by avoiding sinful thinking and sinful living. We do it by surrendering and submitting to the will of God and to the Holy Spirit within us. We have been changed, and we should live different lives. By the way this is not something we should have to be constantly encouraged to do. If we are truly saved, and if we have been profoundly changed, then holiness should be a way of life for us! Ill. 2 Cor. 5:17!
II. V. 9-10 HOW WE ARE CHARACTERIZED
These two verses deal with the reality of our spiritual walk. If we are truly saved, and walking in the light, it will be clear from the life we live. Paul says the “fruit of the Spirit” is seen in three ways.
• It is seen in Goodness - This word refers to “uprightness of heart and life.” It speaks of godliness in the motives, thoughts and actions. It is the quality of godlikeness. This has also to do with our treatment of others. When we practice “goodness,” we are walking in love to those around us. We are being God-like toward them, as we treat them like God treats us.
• It is seen in Righteousness - This word refers to our standing before the Lord. When He saved us, God declared us righteous. He took away all our guilt, imputed the righteousness of Christ to us, and made us holy in His sight. Righteousness is seen in our lives when we live out the reality of who we are, and what we have been made in Christ Jesus. It speaks of a godliness that makes a life as being different and as belonging to the Lord.
• It is seen in Truth - This word has to do with honesty, reliability, and trustworthiness. When this quality is seen in the life of a believer, it stands in stark contrast to the hypocritical, deceptive and false ways of the world.
- “Goodness” deals with our relationship with others.
- “Righteousness” deals with our relationship with God.
- “Truth” deals with the personal integrity of our own lives.
• These three characteristics are called “fruit.” Fruit is the unfolding of life. None of these things, taken to their perfect fulfillment, are things you will find in the lives of unbelievers. They are the “fruit”, the proof, of the presence of the life of the Lord in us. When we know Him, we will be like Him!
You will notice that he did not speak about praying a prayer, joining the church, being baptized, being good to people, doing good works, or giving to or serving the church. All those things are good, but they are works that are easily accomplished in the flesh. Anyone can to them, even someone who has never been saved.
On the other hand, the three characteristics Paul did mention, goodness, righteousness and truth, are only possible through the work of the Spirit in the life of a redeemed believer.
III. V. 11a HOW WE ARE COMMANDED
The phrase “have no fellowship” means “do not be a partaker of.” Those who know the Lord should not be a partaker of those things that are evil, even by association.
We are to avoid all things that are evil. We are to avoid even the appearance of evil, 1 Thes. 5:22.
We have to be in the world. If we are not in the world at all, we cannot witness to the lost. However, we must be careful that we do not allow ourselves to get trapped by the ways of the world. We are to be a separate, holy people to the glory of the Lord.
The kind of sins we are to avoid have been mentioned in Eph. 4:25-31, and in Eph. 5:4-6. This is not an exhaustive list of sins we are to avoid. We are to avoid all sin! The depth of our separation is pointed out clearly in 1 Cor. 5:9-11.
We are to guard our hearts, our minds and our bodies. Sin is all around us, but so is the help of the Spirit of God, 1 John 4:4. If we trust Him, He will help us to live lives that are holy and pleasing to Him.
IV. V. 11b-13 HOW WE ARE COMMISSIONED
• Our responsibility to abstain from sin goes farther than simply not doing sinful things. Here, we are commanded to “reprove them.” (KJV) This means that we are to “expose” evil for what it is. When we are silent about sin, we are guilty of encouraging it. When we ignore sin, we are guilty of promoting it.
The word “reprove/expose” carries the idea of “correction, discipline, and punishment.” It means that we confront sin by refusing to tolerate it. This means that there are times when we must speak out. We must tell others what the Bible says is right and what it says is wrong. Sometimes our intolerance of sin will be direct, as we deal face to face with those who are involved in sinful activities.
At other times, our reproof of wickedness will be indirect. That is, we do the opposite of what the world around us does, and God uses that to rebuke them for their error. They are selfish, but we are giving. They curse, we bless. They live for self, we live for God and for others. They lie, we speak the truth. Simply living for the Lord is a powerful testimony in the face of evil.
One of our problems is the fact that we don’t take sin seriously enough. We wink at it. We laugh about it. We see those around us who are engaged in sin, and we fail to confront. We just don’t take sin as seriously as we should. While we would never do many of the things those around us do, we enjoy them from a distance. Thus, we were still contaminated by it, because we refuse to take a stand against sin and rebuke it.
• Verse 12 tells us that it is a shame to talk about the things the world does. We love to hear a juicy bit of gossip, don’t we? We talk about the sins of others, passing it around from ear to ear. God says somethings are to be handled with as few words as possible. To talk about their sin in a way that spreads it all over the place is a shameful thing. I sometimes think we talk about sin like we do because we secretly want to do the things others are doing. God says that it is a shame for us to do that!
• Verse 13 teals us how to handle sin. We handle sin by taking every action and exposing it to the light of the Word of God. We are to hold it up to the Bible, and if the Bible is against it, we are to be against it too. If the Bible is for it, we are to be for it. The Word of God alone is to be the standard for our lives.
Light makes things “manifest,” or “easy to see.” When we walk in the light, it makes the evil of the world around us easy to see. The children of God should walk so holy, so clean, and so close to God that we stand out as beacons of light in a dark world.
“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matt. 5:14–16.
We are commissioned to be different. When we are…sin is exposed, the Gospel is magnified, and God is glorified.
V. V. 14 HOW WE ARE CALLED
Paul closes this section with an invitation for the lost to come to Jesus for salvation. If they will simply wake up, and come to Jesus, He will save them and give them light. He is calling the lost people who might have been in that congregation to come to Jesus for salvation. That is a call that still goes out today. If you are lost, you can be saved. The Lord will change your life, delver you from, darkness and fill you with His light.
There is also a call here for believers to walk up. We have wandered through this world in a spiritual slumber for far too long. It is time we woke up and got about the Savior’s business. When we do, we will be light to a world trapped in darkness. It may just be that the Lord will use that light to save sinners. Here is how Paul said it in his letter to the Romans: “And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. 12 The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore, let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. 13 Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.” Rom. 13:11–14.
The Body of Christ needs to heed that today!
There was one a great fire in Edinburgh, Scotland, in which people hurried to exit the building through a passage that led to the street. They were almost safe when a rush of smoke met them, blowing into the passage from the outside. The smoke concealed the light just outside and prevented them from seeing the only chance they had of escape. In their darkness, they did not know that safety was just ahead. Instead of running straight through the smoke, they entered through a door into a room that seemed safe. But soon all the oxygen was exhausted, and they all suffocated. If only they had seen the light they might have lived.
The world needs the light we have inside of us. It is the Lord’s will that His children be light in a dark world. It is the power of His light within us that will highlight the differences between us and the lost world around us.
Ask the Father in heaven to help us…to help you “Walk As Children Of Light.”