Charles Simeon Commentary - Ephesians 5:8 - 5:8

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Charles Simeon Commentary - Ephesians 5:8 - 5:8

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Eph_5:8. Ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light.

MANY imagine, that when they have believed in Christ, the work in them is complete: and, if they were then to die, it is true that they would be complete; because it is said of all believers, “Ye are complete in Christ, who is the Head of all principality and power.” But no man in this world is so complete, but that he still needs to be urged forward, by warnings and exhortations, and promises and examples. This is clearly manifest from all the apostolic writings, in which the saints are cautioned against every species of sin, and stimulated to every species of duty. The latter half of this epistle is altogether addressed to believers, in this precise point of view, exhorting them to “walk worthy the vocation wherewith they are called [Note: Eph_4:1.].” The truth is, that saints are yet only as “brands plucked out of the burning:” they still bear the marks of the tire strong upon them, and are still in danger of being consumed by the influence of fiery temptations, if God in his mercy do not preserve them. Their safety is in watchfulness and prayer: in watchfulness, that they give not occasion to Satan to inflame their souls with evil: and in prayer, that, as soon as any spark shall light upon them, it may be extinguished. To all, without exception, of whom it may be said, “Ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord,” the exhortation that is added must be addressed; “Walk as children of light.”

In discoursing on these words, we shall be led to shew,

1.       The change which all true Christians have experienced—

“They once were darkness”—

[The term, “darkness,” in Scripture language, imports ignorance, sin, and misery: and therefore most fitly expresses the state of unconverted men. The mind of the natural man is blind to the things of God: they are spiritual, and he cannot comprehend them for want of a spiritual discernment [Note: 1Co_2:14.]. He knows not the spirituality of God’s law, or the total alienation of his heart from God. He has no just views of the Divine perfections, no adequate sense of his need of a Redeemer; no true perception of the beauty of holiness, or of the excellency of a life entirely devoted unto God. To himself he lives, and not to God: he is a law unto himself, and does nothing but with a view to the gratification of his own feelings. Pleasure, interest, and honour, are the gods whom he serves: and beyond the things of time and sense he has no object of ambition or pursuit. In this state he may find what the world calls happiness; but to real happiness he is a stranger. Whatever satisfaction he feels, it is in a forgetfulness of eternal things that he feels it, and not in the contemplation of them. The thought of death and judgment is appalling to him; and is sufficient to make him, like Belshazzar, tremble in the midst of all his mirth; so that “his countenance shall change, and his knees smite one against the other [Note: Dan_5:6.].” It is the heart-searching God who says, that there is “no real peace to such persons [Note: Isa_57:20-21.],” but that “destruction and misery are in their ways [Note: Rom_3:16-17.].”

Nor let it be thought that this is the character of some only whose wickedness has been of a more flagrant nature: for St. Paul assures us, that it was once his own state, no less than that of others [Note: Eph_2:3. Tit_3:3.] — — — and therefore we may be sure that it is common to all. Indeed a very little knowledge of mankind will convince us, that “the whole world lieth in wickedness [Note: 1Jn_5:19.],” and unconverted men are not only dark, but “darkness” itself, even darkness visible.]

But “they are now light in the Lord”—

[In their conversion they are “turned from darkness unto light, and from the power of Satan unto God.” Their views of self, of sin, of God, of Christ, of every thing around them, are changed — — — In consequence of “the eyes of their understanding being enlightened,” they come forth from the broad road in which they have been walking, and begin to tread the narrow, and less frequented paths, of holiness and life. Their whole labour now is to “put off the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; and to put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” — — — Now they are no longer under bondage to the fear of death, or bowed down with the apprehensions of God’s eternal wrath: they see that he is reconciled towards them in the Son of his love; and with “a spirit of adoption they come before him, crying, Abba, Father.” In a word, they now enjoy peace in their souls, even that “peace of God which passeth all understanding” — — —

All this they have “in the Lord,” that is, by virtue of union with him, and by grace derived from him. Being now members of Christ’s mystical body, they possess all that is in him their living Head, according to the measure of the grace they have received from him. “With Christ is the fountain of life; and in his light they see light.”]

Whilst we contemplate this blessed change, we must not overlook,

II.      The obligations it entails upon them—

Consistency is required of all: of course, if we have been made “light in the Lord,” it becomes us to “walk as children of light.” By this expression we are taught.

1.       What line we are to pursue—

[The commandment of the Lord is a lamp, and his “law is light [Note: Pro_6:23.]:” and by his law are we to direct our steps. That Holy Spirit who has opened our eyes, and renewed our hearts, marks out for us our path, in direct opposition to that which the unconverted world pursue; as the Apostle tells us in the words following our text: “The fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth.” Whilst the ungodly indulge in all the fore-mentioned iniquities, our conduct is to be the very reverse of theirs. In opposition to all unholy tempers [Note: Eph_4:31.], we are to abound in every thing that is “lovely and of good report” — — — In opposition to all that may interfere with the welfare of others [Note: ver. 3.], we are to do in all things precisely as, in a change of circumstances, we should think it right for our neighbour to do unto us — — — And in the whole of our deportment towards both God and man, there should be the most inviolable “truth,” even a perfect integrity of mind, a spirit that is without guile — — — Perhaps we may get somewhat of an idea of our duty from what we behold amongst the heavenly bodies. The stars are all irradiated by the sun; and in respect of that great luminary, may be called children of light. These, according to their capacity, reflect the brightness of the sun, and impart to others the light they have received. So it should be with us: we should make our light to shine before men, that so those who behold us may know how to walk, at the same time that they are constrained to glorify that Sun of Righteousness whose beams we reflect. This is the idea inculcated by the Apostle himself, who tells us, that we must “shine as lights in the world, holding forth the word of life [Note: Php_2:15-16.],” and “proving” in our own persons “what is acceptable unto the Lord [Note: ver. 10.].”]

But there is yet another idea, and a very important one, suggested in this expression, “children of light.” It is the property of light to make things manifest; and consequently, we are to bear our testimony against all the deeds of darkness, not only “having no fellowship with them, (for “what fellowship can light have with darkness [Note: 2Co_6:14.]?”) but reproving them [Note: ver. 11, 13.],” and bearing our testimony for God against all who commit them.

Such then must our conduct be, holy and exemplary, decided and firm.]

2.       In what spirit we should walk in it—

[“Children of disobedience” are such as, from the propensity of their nature, live in wilful and habitual disobedience to God’s commands. So “children of light,” from the impulse of the Holy Spirit, walk cheerfully and habitually in the ways of God. They are not compelled, like slaves, to serve him against their will; but, like dear children, they love their Father’s will, and find his ways to be ways of pleasantness and peace. Nor is it merely on some particular occasions that they obey his voice: they do it constantly, and without reserve: “they delight to do his will;” and “run the way of his commandments with enlarged hearts.” This characterizes the angels around the throne: and it distinguishes also the children of the living God: they “do his will, hearkening to the voice of his word [Note: Psa_103:20.],” and making every succeeding act a prelude to yet further services.]


1.       Those who have never yet experienced this change—

[Be assured, it must be experienced before you can ever enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whether your lives have been more or less polluted with outward sin, you have all equally lived to yourselves, instead of unto God: and your consciences bear testimony against you, that to secure an interest in Christ, and to grow up into his image, and to live for his glory, have not been the great objects of your ambition, nor has your departure from this path been any source of humiliation to your souls. What is darkness, if tins be not? It is, in fact, a living “without God in the world:” and this path, if persisted in, will bring you to “the blackness of darkness for ever.” But I thank God, there is no room for despondency. The Lord Jesus Christ has “come a light into the world, that whoso followeth him should not walk in darkness, but have the light of life [Note: Joh_8:12.].” For this very end was he given, that “he should be a light to the Gentiles, and say to the prisoners, Go forth; and to them that are in darkness, Shew yourselves [Note: Isa_49:6; Isa_49:9.].” Despair not therefore; but entreat, that, as the Sun of Righteousness, he would “arise upon you with healing in his wings.” And hear, for your encouragement, his gracious promise: “I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight: these things will I do unto them, and not forsake them [Note: Isa_42:16.].” But delay not to seek these blessings at his hands. Seek them “before he cause your darkness to increase, and before your feet stumble on the dark mountains, and, while ye are looking for light, he turn it into the shadow of death, and make it gross darkness [Note: Jer_13:16.].” To this effect our Saviour himself charges you: “Yet a little while is the light with you: walk whilst ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you. While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light [Note: Joh_12:35-36.].”]

2.       Those who have an evidence in themselves that it has been wrought in them—

[However the world may despise it as enthusiasm, there are many who have “passed from death unto life,” and “been brought out of darkness into marvellous light.” O rejoice in the Lord, who hath done such great things for you! And now set yourselves to walk worthy of this high calling. Think what manner of persons ye ought to be, and what a holy heavenly conversation becomes you. Guard against every degree of return to your former state. Guard against those who would draw you back, or impede your progress in the heavenly life. It is your privilege “to walk in the light, as God is in the light [Note: 1Jn_1:6-7.];” and to have your path like “the shining light, shining more and more unto the perfect day [Note: Pro_4:18.].” And, whilst this is really the desire and labour of your souls, fear not: your God will be with you, “causing your light to rise in obscurity, and your darkness to be as the noon-day.” Then may you look forward with confidence to that day, when your present light, like that of a taper, shall be eclipsed by the infinitely brighter splendour of the sun; even to that day, when “the sun shall be no more your light by day, neither for brightness shall the moon give light unto you; but the Lord shall be unto you an everlasting light, and your God your glory [Note: Isa_60:19-20.].”]