Ephesians 5:11 declares, “Do not participate in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead even expose them.”
Just as Ephesians 4 encourages believers to “walk worthy,” Ephesians 5 admonishes the faithful to “walk in love…as children of light.”
Is there a difference?
We discussed in the last post that “We could never deserve what God has done for us through salvation, but we should walk in a manner befitting of what He has done.” This then becomes a lifestyle or our day-to-day attitude. To “walk in love as children of light” is directed toward our ongoing actions. The light here is more of our expression, and whereas one stands as a believer in their walk, they are to fulfill that by “speaking the truth in love.”
Paul recognized our sinful past, as Ephesians 5:8 states, “for you were formerly darkness…” but contrasts that with, “…but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light.” This walk is to be active, and in Ephesians 5:11, he instructs believers, “and do not participate in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead even expose them.”
The Greek word for expose is ἐλέγχετε (elegchete) – which means reprove, rebuke, call out or censure. Indeed, believers are commanded not to participate in such unfruitful deeds of darkness, which Ephesians 5:3 defines as “sexual immorality, or any impurity or greed…nor filthiness and foolish talk, or coarse jesting…” (A more complete listing of which can be found in Galatians 5:19-21 and which directly precedes the fruits of the Spirit.)
Does this exposure mean that Christians are to act like so many of the self-righteous social justice Karens who run around telling everyone else how to live and what to think? Fortunately, no! But, it does mean that becomming a believer is not just a matter of obtaining a “get out of hell free” card and basking in the pretense that heaven is just the next stop on life’s journey.
The truth is that we are all engaged in a spiritual battle, as Ephesians 6:12 states, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” This demands developing our spiritual discernment and living as children of light who are separated from the deeds of darkness. Beyond that, believers must be active participants in a spiritual fight and, in obedience, fulfill the duty of confronting and exposing evil via the truth of God’s Word.
Christ’s last words recorded in Matthew 28:18-20 command that we “…Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you…” The world may view these evangelistic efforts as somewhat annoying. Indeed, it can be, depending on the approach used. However, it should also be regarded as non-hypocritical. That is to say if one really believes that faith and repentance are the keys to salvation but kept that silent, it would be hard to conclude their faith was anything other than disingenuous.
In like manner, believers are to confront false teachings and worldly philosophies, with 2 John 10 going so far as to warn, “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him [a false prophet] into your house, and do not give him a greeting, for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deed.”
In summary, Ephesians 4 and 5 present a mini owner’s manual for the life of a believer. The goal is maintaining an attitude that is befitting of one who has received eternal salvation while both avoiding a corrupt lifestyle and actively confronting the world in its spiritual battle by verbally communicating the truth of salvation in love. In Acts 20:21, Paul summarizes this simple message by stating that his pursuit is to testify “both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Sadly, this simple truth and the gift of salvation will be rejected by many because they love their sin and refuse to repent because of their pride. Regardless, the offer remains.