In the previous couple of posts we’ve discussed the Scripture that immediately precedes the one we will discuss today. As a reminder we discussed, “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.” (Ephesians 5:8-10) By God’s grace we are changed from darkness to light, from death to life when we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior by faith. We are transferred from the Kingdom of Satan (darkness to the Kingdom of God (light). In this new life we now are enabled to obey the Word, glorify God, and be holy and righteous, and that pleases the Lord.
When we walk as children of light there are things that we are expected to do and things that will happen as a result of the way we live. We don’t live in a vacuum; what we do affects others. We reap what we sow. Contrary to the popular lie, there is no such thing as a sin that does not hurt anybody. Sin is sin, and the wages of sin is still death. When we sin there are consequences. “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.” (Ephesians 5:11-13)
We cannot believe for a moment that we can sin without hurting anyone. It hurts us, those around us, and harms our relationships. The best example found in the Scriptures to illustrate this point is found in Joshua. There we read about a man named Achan. As the nation of Israel was conquering Jericho in that great and impressive display of God’s power over such a mighty city, God gave a command. “Do not take any of the things set apart for destruction, or you yourselves will be completely destroyed, and you will bring trouble on the camp of Israel.” (Joshua 6:18)
The spoils of battle were to be left. No one was to take them for themselves. And what did Achan do? “But Israel violated the instructions about the things set apart for the Lord. A man named Achan had stolen some of these dedicated things, so the Lord was very angry with the Israelites.” (Joshua 7:1a) One man took things and hid them under the ground in his tent. One man sinned secretly and he thought no one knew and no one would find out. And yet we learn that for one member of the body to sin affects the whole body. For God says that the children of Israel sinned. As a whole people they were guilty because one of them sinned. God judged all of Israel for one man’s sins. As they went to attack a small city, an easy target, they were defeated! God then exposed Achan’s sin and he and his family were killed in judgment. We never ever sin without it affecting others and of course, ourselves, for the worse.
As we walk in the light we are told to “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness“. As we walk as children of light, we shouldn’t encourage or excuse sin. We are not to fellowship with these unfruitful works. This speaks of agreement, endorsement, and participation. We will not agree in our minds or hearts with sinful attitudes. We will not endorse sin by speaking out in its defense: “…although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.” (Rom. 1:32)
Instead the way we live will expose the unfruitful works. This does not speak of an active confrontation as if we should run around and convince everyone of how sinful they are. This means that when we walk as children of light the way we live will expose the way they live as unfruitful. The Bible says the things that sinners do are shameful.
The Bible is clear here – the unfruitful works of darkness (Galatians 5:19-21), those things that stand in contrast to the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23) are things we should be ashamed of. Yet how often do we boast about our sin? And how often do we eagerly engage in gossip, talking about the sins of others? These things are not to be talked about! We need to be very careful about the topics of our conversations. We must not enjoy discussing sin and we must not sin in the things we talk about.
These things are so dangerous that we have been given instructions in the church as to how to deal with sin between believers so that we can maintain purity and deal effectively with sin before it grows and corrupts the body. The steps for dealing with sin are clearly laid out for us in Matthew 18:15-17: “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.”
We must be ready and willing to deal with sin in our lives and in the lives of those around us. And the truth is that we will not have to work hard at confronting and exposing sin, for if we are walking in the light then the light that we are and the light that we have, and the light who is the Light of the World, will expose these unfruitful works. It is enough to be holy in order to stand in stark contrast to the world around us. And when we are holy the unholy becomes clear.
To see that the light makes manifest is to see that the light allows us to see something for what it really is. And what is the standard by which we then think, say, or do in response to what is revealed? It is the Word of God. For only the Word of God is “is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (Heb 4:12) The Word of God discerns thoughts and intentions of the heart.
Think of it this way – we are not called to contextualize the gospel so that those around us understand it on a cultural level. We are not to try and make the gospel relevant to the age. In fact we are not called to save the culture.
We are called and empowered and expected to answer the call to be separate from the culture and call others to come out and follow Christ with us. What’s more, we are called to live in the culture but to do so all the while living differently than the culture. This is to walk in the light – and the way we live then will indeed expose the unfruitful works of darkness. We are called to LIVE the gospel by walking in the light. When we do, we will be different and we will make a difference in the lives of the people around us.
- Bible Gateway with NIV Study Bible Notes
- The Unfruitful Works of Darkness