For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. This is why it is said: “Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Ephesians 5:8-14
We are the Light
In the first section of Ephesians 5, Paul uses very blunt language to exhort the Ephesians into a life of holiness. He forcefully denounced the irreverent sexual practices that were prevalent among his contemporaries. His goal was to spur the Ephesians into godly living to reflect their new identity as members of the body of Christ. Paul is not in denial about the paganism that existed in Ephesus. Whereas the city of Ephesus was known as an important cultural center, it was steeped in sinful practices associated with idol worship in the temple of the goddess Diana. Many of the Ephesians that converted to Christianity were prone to live the heathen lifestyle from which they had been saved. That heathen lifestyle represents darkness, to Paul. That is the point he is making in verse 8. Yet Paul moves beyond using heathenism as a representation of darkness to say that heathenism is darkness while claiming that Christians are light. That is consistent with what Jesus said to his disciples in Matthew 5:14-16.
In John 12:46, Jesus says, "I have come into the world as light so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness." That is the basis of Paul's exhortation to the Ephesians. Paul maintains that whoever believes in Christ is light, and those who do not are darkness. Thus, he expects members of the Ephesian church to live as children of light. In verse 9, Paul makes it clear that children of light bear fruits of benevolence, righteousness, and truth. Paul uses the Greek agathosune for Benevolence to highlight a certain generosity of spirit. The Greeks themselves defined righteousness (dikaiosune), as "giving to men and God that which is their due." For truth, he uses the Greek—Aletheia, which is in New Testament thought is not merely an intellectual thing to be grasped with the mind; it is moral truth, not only something to be known but something to be done.
Paul contends that as the light of the world, Christians are compelled to find out what pleases God. "It is in the light of Christ that all motives and all actions must be tested. It is the Christian's duty to expose every action, every decision, and every motive to the light of Christ." Paul makes the point in verse 11 that Christians should not be associated with the fruits of darkness. Rather, we are to expose them. The point here is that there is no shadow in the light. The light does not hide anything. Its translucent nature is opposed to darkness, which is naturally destructive and concealing.
The light of Christ exposes the darkness of the world. It is, therefore, by exposing our light as children of light can we rid the world of its darkness. Indeed, darkness ceases to exist in the presence of light. Therefore, Paul says, "everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light." In verse 14, Paul finishes this section of Chapter 5 with what was probably a worship chorus from the early church to illustrate this truth about the dichotomy between darkness and light. The content of the quotation suggests it was a rallying cry for the Christians in Ephesus to awaken their godly sensitivities so they can take ownership of their identity as the light of the world amid the heathenism of their time. Christians can easily be lulled into a state of spiritual sleepiness. Thus, Paul reminds the Ephesians to stay awake, so they do not get pulled into the darkness of the world around them.
One of the toughest challenges for Christian is not to allow the darkness of the world to eclipse their light. Because we spend so much time around darkness, we are naturally prone to imitate the darkness instead of exposing it. We, therefore, need to heed the word of Paul in Romans 12:2 and not be conformed to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of our mind.
On December 14, 2020, the earth is scheduled to experience a total Solar Eclipse whereby the Moon covers the Sun. During this eclipse, people are reminded not to look directly at the Sun without any protective eyewear to prevent damage to their retina by the Sun's UB radiation. It will be a spectacular sight to behold as the surface of the Sun will be entirely covered by the Moon.
There is nothing spectacular or inviting to behold when the darkness of the world eclipses the light of the believer. The spiritual eclipse of the believer can have a catastrophic impact on every sector of society. The light of the believer causes the darkness of injustice, racism, the growing chasm between the rich and the poor, sexism, and xenophobia to be exposed. It is our light, which exposes the fruitless deeds of darkness in our world.
As Paul closes that section of Chapter 5 with a clarion call for the Ephesians to wake up and rise from the dead, the same should be said to Christians today. We have to wake up from our spiritual slumber so we can reflect the light of Christ in us for the salvation of the world. Our light must be in full display for all to see. It cannot be hidden.
Blessed Lord, please help your followers to reflect their light in this world of darkness so the lost can see Christ, high and lifted up, and be saved.