“…at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.” Ephesians 5:8
I was sitting in Church one Sunday, and I admit: I have missed more sermons by getting distracted in my own thoughts about a particular verse than I can even count! This time I got stuck on Ephesians 5:8: “for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.” This is a verse I have read time and time again, I have even preached and taught Bible studies about the verses surrounding it. Still, I never noticed what I did sitting in the pew that Sunday.
There are many people in the world, especially in our American culture, who believe that people are born inherently and intrinsically good and are later corrupted by society. This means that a person is born with no imperfections and is gradually made to do bad things by the events and circumstances in their lives.
In contrast, the Bible teaches that man is inherently and intrinsically bad because of a “sin-nature” passed on to us by Adam in the book of Genesis. This is important because it answers many questions about our world: Why would a good God send good people to Hell? Why do good people need Jesus as a Savior? Why do children instinctively lie? etc.
The idea that man is bad is evidenced in Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus when he says “you were once darkness”. Notice Paul does not say “you were once in darkness”. Instead he says we were actually darkness itself. The world’s wisdom would tell us that we were in darkness but were not actually darkness ourselves. If, without Christ, we are darkness, then we have a dire need for transformation by a Savior. If however, without Him we are only in darkness, there might be other ways out of the darkness.
How are we transformed into light from darkness? Just as darkness cannot think or work itself into being light, so we cannot think or work ourselves into being transformed. In the early chapters of Ephesians, Paul says, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved” (Ephesians 2:4-5).
Dead people do not make themselves alive again. We are dead – or darkened – in our sins and we have to be made alive – transformed into light – through grace in the gospel. The gospel of Jesus Christ transforms us.
“But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.” – Romans 11:6
Now, this brings us to the point of all this: “Walk as children of light” (Ephesians 5:8). “and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.” (2 Corinthians 5:15)
The gospel does not transplant us from darkness to light, it transforms us from darkness to light. I pray we can understand the difference between the two. If we are transplanted from darkness to light then we should try to avoid all darkness because that is the very thing that Jesus has taken us out of. To return would be to forsake the gospel.
However, if we are transformed from darkness into light, then we are able to be a light in the darkness. To walk into dark places and to dark people would actually be what takes us to the center of God’s will. This is a perspective of outreach instead of isolationism. Isolationist is exactly what Satan wants us to become, and it is the natural outcome of believing that we are transplanted – rather than transformed – by the gospel.
The difference between the “transplanted” way of thinking and the “transformed” way of thinking is huge for a Christian – especially if we strive to “be imitators of God, as beloved children” (Ephesians 5:1) and to “walk as children of the light” (Ephesians 5:8).
Jesus demonstrated that we are called to be light in the darkness time and time again in his ministry to the lowly, sinful, and dishonest. Surely this is how a Christian should act.
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” – Romans 12:2
credit to George Holleway