A few after-thoughts on Ephesians 5:11-14
Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light.
As I understand this text, there is a two-pronged direction and application: missional and ecclesial. The ecclesial points to applications for the church. The missional points to applications for the world. In a recent sermon I focused on the ecclesial applications, ways to expose darkness among ourselves. Here, I want to focus on the missional application, ways to expose darkness among outsiders.
As children of light, we are called to walk with God on mission to the world. We are sent as light to the nations, to expose the unfruitful works of darkness, to shine the light of Christ in the dark places of the world. As St Paul put it, our mission is
to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. (Acts 26:18)
The world is full of dead sinners, sons of disobedience, and children of wrath. All groping in the darkness of sin and death, with blind eyes that cannot see, calloused hearts that do not feel, and dull minds that will not understand. The nations are a chaotic, formless, and empty mass — and darkness covers the surface of the deep.
Unless the Spirit broods over the darkness of the deep, and God commands his light to shine on them, the nations will perish in the dark chaos of their sins. As it stands, the Spirit broods over the nations in and through the body of Christ. The Spirit is the Lord and Giver of Life who moves us and helps us proclaim the good news of life in Christ to those who are dead in sin. As it is written:
For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show [the world] that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. (2 Cor. 4:5-7)
As children of light, we are called to expose the darkness. The Greek word expose means to uncover or bring out into the open. Unlike the English word, the Greek word also conveys the reason why we must expose the unfruitful works of darkness. It is not to shame ourselves nor to shatter anyone. Rather, it is to convict the sin, correct the sinner, and call them to faith in Jesus Christ.
We are called to expose the darkness by expressing the light of the gospel with our words and deeds. This is not to make ourselves look good and others bad. This is make our Lord and Savior look gracious and glorious on earth as he is in heaven. Remember: once, before Christ was revealed to us, we were darkness and dead in our sins.
God sends us on mission to awaken the dead in the graveyard of the world, and he goes with us by the power of the hope of the gospel, “for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,
‘Awake, O sleeper,
and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.’
The Protestant Reformer John Calvin understood this mission of the church and urged his hearers to make every effort to engage the world with the gospel. “Let us endeavour, as far as lies in our power, to rouse the sleeping and the dead, that we may bring them to the light of Christ.”
Amen. Let us go and do likewise, with the faith, hope, and love that are in Christ Jesus.