Paul Kretzmann Commentary - Ephesians 5:6 - 5:14

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Paul Kretzmann Commentary - Ephesians 5:6 - 5:14

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This Chapter Verse Commentaries:

The children of light avoid the works of darkness:

v. 6. Let no man deceive you with vain words; for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience.

v. 7. Be not ye, therefore, partakers with them.

v. 8. For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord; walk as children of light,

v. 9. (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth,)

v. 10. proving what is acceptable unto the Lord.

v. 11. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.

v. 12. For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret.

v. 13. But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light; for whatsoever doth make manifest is light.

v. 14. Wherefore, he saith, Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.

The Ephesian Christians, like those of every city since, were in the minority in the city, a few in the midst of many heathen. Not only did they have the constant example of the Gentiles before them, but they were also continually subject to temptations. The sins which the apostle, for instance, had just mentioned as vices to be abhorred, they regarded as innocent joys and pastimes in which any one might indulge for a time in order to sow his wild oats. But the apostle warns the Ephesians, as he does the Christians of today: Let no one deceive you, seduce you, with vain words, with empty, foolish talk. The people that indulge in such talk are chiefly such as have come in contact with the Christian religion, but refused to be persuaded. Their smooth words are dangerous arguments, and the Christians must not listen to them; for because of these sins, as the apostle once more emphatically says, the wrath of God descends upon the children of unbelief. This is not only the wrath of the final Judgment, but the decree of punishment which strikes the sinners even in this world. Sons of disobedience the willful sinners are called, for disobedience is their sphere of activity, they practice it unceasingly and thus challenge the temporal punishments and the eternal damnation which comes upon them. The apostle holds up, as it were, a warning finger: Do riot, then, become partakers with them; do not allow yourselves to fall back into ways which you have forsaken through the grace of God. For these vices are not only subject to punishment, as outlined above, but they deprive of the grace of God given in regeneration. If the Christians become partakers with the unbelievers of their sins, they will become companions of them also in their damnation. Being in the midst of unbelievers, being engaged in business with them, the Christians must be doubly careful lest they be drawn into the prevalent immorality and profiteering business methods.

The apostle brings a strong argument to support his admonition: For you were formerly darkness, now, however, a light in the Lord. Darkness is the spiritual condition of the unconverted, the unbelievers; their sphere was sin, godlessness, transgression of God's holy Law. But that time, that condition, is wholly past and gone in the case of the Ephesians. As Christians they were no longer darkness (which implies more than merely being darkened), but they had now, through the power of God, become enlightened to such an extent as to make them a light in the Lord. By being converted or regenerated, the former Gentiles had not only been removed from the perdition of the world and brought to the knowledge of Jesus Christ, their Savior, they had not only been filled with the light of the Gospel, but they had themselves become a light in the Lord, Rom_2:19; 1Th_5:4. They could now not only walk worthy of the light, but they were able to serve as a light for others, lead others into the way of sanctification. And Paul immediately enumerates some of the virtues which the Christians should show in their sphere of activity, in their walk as children of light For the fruit of the light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth. The character of the believers as the children of light cannot but express itself in this manner, they must show the fruit of the light in their lives. Three virtues are named by the apostle as giving the soundest evidence of the Spirit of light in a person's life: goodness in all its forms, moral soundness and propriety, combined with active beneficence; righteousness, moral rectitude, which takes care that nothing and nobody receives any injury; truth, moral purity, sincerity and integrity as opposed to hypocrisy and falsehood. Thus Christian morality is described as being good, just, and true. And in thus giving expression to the light that is in them, in thus walking as the children of light, the Christians are so careful against the deception of unbelief and enmity against God that their attitude always is: Proving what is well-pleasing to the Lord. To all things, to all customs, to all forms approved by society, to everything that they come in contact with in life, the Christians apply the standard of God's holy will. For often the difference between right and wrong is not immediately obvious, and therefore the spiritual man is very careful about judging, 1Co_2:15. The Christian's aim in this life is to find out what pleases the Lord, and then to abide by His will.

If the Christians, moreover, walk as the children of light, the apostle's words will be heeded: And do not have fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but, on the other hand, rather reprove them. Light, as wrought by the Spirit, brings forth fruit, fruit which must be acknowledged as such everywhere. But the darkness, the unconverted state, the condition of unbelief, can bring forth real fruit as little as weeds are able to: the works of darkness are unfruitful, they are destructive, wicked, dead, Heb_6:1; Heb_9:14; Col_1:21. The Christians will, therefore, have nothing in common with them, they will shun and avoid them at all times. And not satisfied with a mere attitude of refusal, they will, on their part, go forward to attack the evil in an aggressive manner, reprove them, show their sinfulness. "The idea, therefore, is that these Christians were not at liberty to deal lightly with such sins, or connive at them, or be silent about them, but had to speak out against them and hold them up to rebuke, with the view of bringing their heathen neighbors to apprehend their turpitude and forsake them."

This attitude of the Christians is demanded all the more by the fact: What is secretly done of them is indeed a shame even to speak of; yet all things, when they are reproved, are manifested by the light, for everything which is made manifest is light. The secret sins which are practiced by the children of darkness are indeed of such a nature that they can hardly be mentioned without blushing; in the time when the apostle lived, the most unnatural vices were taken as a matter of course. Yet their naming under circumstances becomes a duty, as we see in the case of the apostle in the first chapter of Romans. Thus the secrecy of the vices here referred to is the reason why they require to be reproved openly; and the very fact of their being so abominable makes it all the more incumbent to administer open rebukes instead of silently overlooking, or conniving at, their presence. All the sins and vices of the heathen, of the unbelievers, both those that are done in public and such as are done in secret, are manifested, exposed, brought to light when they are reproved by the light, that is, by the children of light, by the Christians. The direct reproof, indeed, strikes only the known sins, but the testimony of the truth in the mouth of the Christians penetrates also into the hidden depths of the human heart and convicts the sinners of secret sins and vices. In support of this course Paul refers to an axiom: Everything that is made manifest is light. Things that were hidden and secret are illuminated by being placed into the light. And thus a person that becomes conscious of his misery, of his guilt, thereby reaches the point that he, by the gracious influence of God, turns away from sin, learns to know the mercy of the Savior, and then conducts his life in accordance with God's will and becomes a light in the Lord. This will unfortunately not always be the result of the Christian's testimony against sin, since many hardened sinners refuse to heed the warning of the Law; but there will always be some that are enlightened by the Spirit of God through the Word, and this fact should serve as a stimulus to the believers to rebuke sin and try to work knowledge of sin whenever an opportunity presents itself.

The apostle concludes this section with a reference to a well-known verse: Therefore it is said, Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall shine upon thee. This quotation is not taken from Scriptures, but may have been a verse adapted from the synagogue or Christian liturgy of Paul's days, or Paul applied a common greeting of the Jewish New Year to the situation. At God's call the Christian should open his eyes and, in turn, call out to his unbelieving, godless neighbor: With your sins you are lying in spiritual sleep, death, and destruction. Therefore arise from sleep, arise from the dead; repent, be converted! If this call works the knowledge of sin, then Christ will give the knowledge of salvation. Christ is here pictured as a beautiful, shining, flashing light. The sinner, having arisen from the sleep of sin and death, is surrounded and flooded with Christ, the Sun of Salvation, and thus becomes blessed and happy in this illumination. The quotation which Paul here makes use of, therefore, comes in very relevantly to show both the need for the reproof and the good effects of such a reproof by the grace of God.