Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Eph. 5:8d “. . .walk as children of light:. . .”
“Walk” refers to life-style, outward, habitual actions, one’s ongoing behavior. “Walk as children of light” challenges us to live as people whose essential nature is light, as people who have been born in it, and are filled with it. Spiritual light has behavioral consequences. Heavenly light produces earthly results. Paul’s command is for us to act like what we are. Behave as believers ought to. We have been made light. Live like it.
Shine, not to be admired and treated as special, but that the lost may see in us Jesus, their true light of hope. Jesus is the One the world needs to notice. This is why godly living in and of itself is not enough of a witness. Living an upright life, coupled with silence, brings all glory to self. Living a good life, coupled with speaking for Jesus, gives glory to Him.
It can be difficult to verbally identify ourselves with the Lord. To be a genuine blessing to the lost, to point them to their only hope, believers must be willing to pay the cost of ridicule and rejection. “Shining calls for sacrifice” (Strauss). John the Baptist “was a burning and a shining light” (JN 5:35), and died for it. If we would shine, we must be willing to burn.
At all cost, talk about Jesus. Give Him exposure. At the same time, confirm our talk with our walk. Live a life “that betrays its source by its resemblance” (Maclaren). The beam which reflects from a mirror is the same as the beam which shines on it. Similarly, Jesus intends for us to reflect His very life, to behave as He did. “We have no right to call ourselves Christ’s followers unless we are, in some measure, Christ’s pictures” (Maclaren). Telephones, through a process I do not understand, receive sound waves and convert them to electrical impulses, which are then changed back into sound waves which make the voice I hear sound exactly like the voice of the person speaking. God works similarly in us. The life Jesus lived in the flesh is conveyed through the power of the Holy Spirit into my very being, where it is to be lived again through my members.
Let Jesus shine again. Radiate Him on all with whom you have contact. Make a difference in your part of the world. “Brighten the corner where you are.” God has given believers in our culture the wonderful opportunity to be a blessing to a lost, dying, dark world. We need to stop whining about our plight, and start shining in the night. The ancient words of Isaiah (60:1) are appropriate today, “Arise, shine; for thy light is come.”
Eph. 5:9a (For the fruit of the Spirit. . .”
Verse nine is a parenthesis, interjected to describe the path believers ought to walk. The best manuscripts have “light” instead of “Spirit.” “Fruit of the light” refers to visible and spontaneous traits which light produces.
Fruit is visible. True light cannot be hid. Once brought into the inner parts, light manifests itself outwardly. Where there is spiritual light, there is visible fruit. Christianity is not an invisible thing, consisting only in private beliefs and personal concerns. Certain outward, visible traits will characterize the life-styles of children of light. Spiritual light naturally tends to blossom out in many forms of beauty. Thus, boast not of enlightenment if there is no outward beauty of holiness.
Fruit is spontaneous. In nature, fruit results from “natural, silent, spontaneous, effortless growth” (Maclaren). Fruit is the obvious result of a vital power. Similarly, “Christian virtue is, in its true essence, grace having its way” (Moule). This explains why a Christian who is ungodly will be miserable. He is suppressing a power which unceasingly seeks to flow outwardly from within. As a result, a Christian in sin is always out of kilter, off key, out of sync–he or she constantly senses something is not right.
Eph. 5:9b “. . .is in all. . .”
Before we analyze each of the three features of light listed here–goodness, righteousness, and truth–we need to discuss them as a unit. “All” these graces characterize a child of light. True light produces all three. This was implied in “fruit,” which is singular. It takes all three to make one complete unit. Our light is flickering if any of the three is missing.
It is not enough to excel in one area of Christian living. A believer is meant to be well-rounded, “fruitful in every good work” (CL 1:10). We are ever in danger of cultivating only those virtues which agree with our natural disposition, or are made easy by our circumstances. We like to do what is easy, what fits our temperament and environment, but must pursue excellence in every realm of life. Make-up and surroundings help explain behavior, but do not excuse it. If you are amiable by nature, work on firmness; if stern, cultivate softness; if “straight-laced,” try to be a bit more happy-go-lucky; if happy-go-lucky, occasionally seek to straighten your lace.
Eph. 5:9c “. . .goodness. . .”
This refers to benevolence, generosity of spirit. “Goodness” desires to alleviate the sufferings of, and promote the happiness of, others. This is a chief characteristic of God Himself. We often say, “God is good.” Our English word “God” means “the good one.” In fact, in Old English, “good” was spelled “god.” To be like the good One, seek to practice “goodness.”
“Goodness,” which displays a spirit of love, is an attractive trait of our faith, for the beauty of God Himself shines upon it. God has taught us a lovely and appealing new way of looking at life. As Ironside pointed out, God’s grammar is different from man’s. In school we are taught, first person, I; second person, you; third person, he. Heavenly grammar teaches, first person, he–God; second person, you–others; third person, I–me last.
In his dying days, William Booth was unable to address a large gathering of the Salvation Army. He instead cabled his message. It consisted of only one word, “Others!” That says it all when it comes to “goodness.”
Eph. 5:9d “. . .and righteousness. . .”
“Righteousness” always carries legal connotations. It denotes conformity to the prescriptions and demands of law. For the believer, “righteousness” begins as a judicial gift given to us from God. He makes us righteous by faith before Himself, and then enables us to live righteously before men.
Regarding conduct, “righteousness” refers to doing right, performing our duty. Personal wants and desires come last, duty and right come first. Rectitude is the reigning hallmark. The righteous know what the straight and narrow path is, and seek to never deviate from it, whatever the consequence. Ambrose said, “If I were standing on a precipice between sin and Hell, I would leap into the flames of Hell before I would jump into sin.”
A righteous person is reliable. He sees every relationship of life as entailing certain obligations, each of which he is determined to fulfill.
Eph. 5:9e “. . .and truth;). . .
“Truth” refers to internal integrity. It is sincere and honest, not false or treacherous; open and above board, not underhanded or deceitful. God desires “truth in the inward parts” (PS 51:6). His light exposes everything, even down to the deepest essence. He allows no secret treaties with the forces of darkness.
“Sincerity runs through all the graces” (Manton). When a young Salvation Army officer, Ironside attended a large rally at which his Colonel spoke. Ironside said he never forgot the leader’s words, “Remember, Comrades–men will forgive you if you are not educated, they will forgive you if your culture is not up to the highest standards, if you are not eloquent, if you cannot sing charmingly, but they will never forgive you if they find out that you are not sincere, that you are pretending to be what you are not.”
Sincerity was a prominent part of the home in which I was raised. Godliness pervaded every feature of our family life. When a teenager, I late one night stepped into the hallway and looked into the kitchen. Dad was sitting alone at the table. With head bowed, he was saying grace over a bowl of All-bran cereal. He thought no one was watching. I remember how that scene pleased me. It was a very small act on the surface, but spoke volumes about inner character. What we do when we think no one is watching reveals the real us, and will eventually manifest itself openly.
Be real. Be genuine. Christianity is not content with hypocritical adornment or superficial appearance. A person yielded to God’s light is free to be transparent. When Adam and Eve sinned, their first reaction was to cover themselves and to hide, but a person living according to God’s light feels safe being open, for he has nothing to cover or hide. A believer walking in light has no need for pretence, for he cloaks no duplicity.
“Truth” in the inner man is absolutely essential, for without it “goodness and righteousness” cannot be long maintained. To do “goodness,” one’s very constitution and essence must be “goodness.” We sometimes fall into the trap of being content with doing a little from time to time for people in serious circumstances. “Truth” raises a higher standard for us. We have to become, inwardly, “goodness” embodied. It must ooze out from the pores.
The same applies to “righteousness.” It has to emanate from within. Taking God’s Word as their rule, the righteous seek to have the Bible written not only on paper, but emblazoned upon the heart.