Cornerstone EPC Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734 April 3, 2016
“Once Darkness, Now Light”
Text: Ephesians 5:3-14
It has been three weeks since our last sermon from Ephesians, and we return today to our punctuated series through that letter. Once again, we, having completed its doctrinal section (that is, what we as Christians are to believe) before Christmas, return to its ethical section (this is, what we as Christians are to do in light of what we believe). Our last message in this series (from Ephesians 4:31-5:2) moved us to walk in love. Now we hear that we who are in Christ—once darkness, but now light—are to walk in light. Let us hear the Holy Spirit speak as we hear His Word read in this place.
(HERE READ THE TEXT)
We begin by noting what we, who are in Christ, were before meeting Him. We once were darkness—and this before meeting Him in a saving way. Paul lists various vices—various dark deeds—in which many an Ephesian Christian once engaged. He lists in today’s passage various sexual misdeeds and greed: either understood generally or specifically for inappropriate sexual gratification. We can understand today’s vice list as a part of a larger whole; certainly other misdeeds are contraindicated in Scripture. Not only did many an Ephesian Christian engage in these and other dark deeds (as, perhaps, have we), but they and we also spoke dark words. By this we mean the foolish, empty talk and the crude joking—and that perhaps about sexual matters—that the Spirit here forbids through His inspired penman, the Apostle Paul. Those engaging in these practices, apart from saving knowledge of Christ, are headed for an inexpressibly dark place—and those pursuing this darkness insatiably and spurring other to similar wickedness have no share in Christ’s Kingdom. This holds because those in the dark and doing dark things are in fact idolaters; they worship something else apart from the triune God. They are without inheritance in Christ’s Kingdom, and they properly are objects of God’s righteous wrath. All of this is true of the Ephesian Christians before their conversions—and such is true of us before our conversions as well.
This letter, however, is not addressed to unbelievers, but to believers—and believers have the glorious station and privileges listed later in our text today. We who are in Christ are now light in the Lord. We who once were darkness—and walked therein—now are light. Hence, God calls us to walk as children of light. He calls us to walk—that is, to behave consistently—in goodness, righteousness, truth, and thanksgiving. These are the diametric opposites of the deeds of darkness listed earlier in the text. In short, we are to have nothing to do with the fruitless, useless, deeds of darkness listed in our text. Instead of these, we shall try to discern what pleases the Lord. We have seen already some of what pleases Him; we now see more of the same.
Not only, being light, shall we walk in light, but we also shall reflect the light of the Lord to all. The Lord, in His Word, tells us to expose, or to rebuke, the fruitless deeds of darkness. This we do with words, if absolutely necessary, but with our lives in any case. What Francis of Assisi said concerning preaching, “Preach the Gospel, and, if necessary, use words,” applies in exposing dark deeds. We do this also with great humility and trepidation, looking also at self. God tells us to adopt this posture when noting a fellow believer overtaken in a fault (Galatians 6:1); a similar posture when noting the same in an unbeliever glorifies the Lord and serves well. If we be in Christ, we too were once dead in sin, but now are alive in Christ (Ephesians ii.1-7). Being raised from this death, Christ shines on us—in a real sense—for all to see. We bask in His light, and others see His light reflected from us. This is not always welcome in the realm of darkness (John 3:19-21), but our mighty God overcomes the darkness (John 1:5)—and someone currently in darkness will see the Light of the World (John 8:12) in us and will be eternally glad.
Most of us, if not all of us, in the sanctuary today stand on the believing side of the great divide of humanity. We are in Christ, by grace, through faith, and as such we are light in the Lord. Yet it must be admitted, with heaviness of heart, that we who are in Christ, being now light, at times do dark things. It matters little whether our dark deeds rise immediately from today’s text or from another Scripture portion. We have fallen short in at least one point, and therefore are guilty of all (James 2:10). This condition is inconsistent with our identity in Christ, and it is inconsistent with our calling in Him.
Yet God, in His mercy, has a remedy for us. He calls us to repentance in Christ. He does this initially at our conversion, but some ill-informed folk think this is the only repentance necessary in the Christian life. This is a mistake; God calls us to continual repentance throughout our lives as He sanctifies us. The Lord, after all, sets us apart for His possession, to more and more resemble Christ over time, and to declare His praises with lips and life. This is how God works repentance in us. First, when our ways diverge from His, He leads us to agree with His Word that our ways diverge from His. Second, He empowers us to turn from that way—or those ways—divergent from His. Third, He empowers us to walk in His ways—and to forsake the former ways. This process is not complete in this life, nor is the final result accomplished in this life. There is grace from on high for sins committed as we walk with the Lord, and there is grace to continually hate, resist, and forsake them as well.
Being in Christ makes us light in the Lord and entails us to walk in light. May He empower each Christian to comply with this—by His grace and for His glory. May He also continually call folks—even some here, should it apply—from death to life (John 5:24), from darkness to light.