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Author:Rev. David Stares
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Congregation:Reformed Church of Masterton
 New Zealand
 rcmasterton.co.nz
 
Title:Shining Lights
Text:Ephesians 5:3-14 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Living in a sinful world
 
Preached:2019-02-17
Added:2022-03-26
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. David Stares, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Ephesians 5:3-14

As we now move to this text this morning, we need to see that there is a bit of a shift. Last week, in addition to the weeks before we spoke a lot about the relationship that we have to the rest of the covenant community. How we need to build up the body of Christ, and that meant that we need to lay aside lying and anger and stealing and rotten speech and anything the would grieve the HS who creates unity within the covenant community.

But today, Paul is concerned to maintain he distinction between those in the covenant community and the actions that are observed in the world. Deeds that he before would have called the deeds of the old man, but now he uses a new metaphor, the difference between light and darkness. And he wants to see the light of Jesus shining in them.

Because we are children of light, we will live in the light.

1. The Deeds of Darkness

2. The Life of Light

1. The Deeds of Darkness

Well, once again, similar to the last section, Paul has a list of things that characterize the old man, the deeds that the people in the church shouldn’t be engaged in the first set here is sexual immorality and all uncleanness. V.3. Now, this is speaking about, especially sexual sin. And this was a big deal in the culture that Paul was writing to, which had no interest in sexual purity. And I think that this is important to understand when we read the new testament. That we can have sort of a ‘golden age’ view of the world in which views the past as a more noble, respectable time. That ancient Greece and Rome were full of philosophers and scholars and generals and political minds, and understood how destructive immorality can be. When, in reality it was just as rife with sin as our culture. Paul’s words are directly relevant to us because they were written to a culture much like ours. They had religious festivals to excite the sexual passion and, of course they had the full variety of sex outside the bonds of marriage at their disposal.

And likewise, it was a culture of greed, which Paul calls idolatry. And the reason is that it makes a god of an object. Now, it’s hard to know what Paul was thinking here. No doubt he had in mind the greed for those very sexual and sensual pleasures that he condemns, but even more, any greed for any earthly thing would fall under this heading of greediness. The coveting of earthly wealth, which so often spilled over into the acquisition of pleasure and pleasurable experiences. It was the wealthy who could afford lavish parties filled with drinking and a variety of other entertainments. And so those who are striving for this worlds wealth are making that the idol and set their minds on the base things of this world.

But Paul says that these things should not be named among them, why? Because they are saints. The word saint, remember means holy one, it means they are special to God. They are the holy ones of God, and so they cannot be linked to the sorts of uncleanness that God so explicitly forbids. You remember last week that Paul condemned anger, stealing, lying (6th ,8th ,9th commandments). Well, here are commandments 7 and 10. And because this is the holy people of God, these things must not be associated with what goes on in the church. And this is so serious that in 1 cor 5, Paul excommunicates, from a distance, someone whom he had heard about that was in the middle of a shameful relationship with his step-mother. God takes the sexual purity of his people seriously.

But it’s not that easy, is it? Because sexual purity is so hard to maintain. We live in a world where sex is thrown in our faces day after day. No longer do you need to g to the wrong side of town or buy a magazine. You get it delivered to wherever you are, in TV shows where you least expect it, in advertising, at sporting events. It is a constant battle to guard our hearts against the worming of the devil and the resonance that has with our own flesh. To fight the influence of the world that says that defines you by your sexual activity, subtly saying ‘you are only really you if you’re having sex.’ To fight against the damage that is done to people in a world that thinks sex is meaningless, rather than the creation of a bond between two people, and to fight against the damage that can do to a family and a church community.

And it is this zeal to prevent the influence if immorality that drives the next verse. The world is bombarding us with sex, but in the church v.4. Part of the ceremonies of the cults in Ephesus would involve just this, making crude and suggestive jokes to arouse the sinful passions. But the church is to be a place where those sins are combatted by taming our tongues. Thus, conversation should be upbuilding, and as he says, filled with thanksgiving, and things that edify, the fruit of thanksgiving.

 Now, this doesn’t mean that we don’t talk about sex. God does, and he has a lot to say on the subject, but what we don’t do is centre our conversations on the sinful activities that we ourselves are trying to fight against. This isn’t helpful, and is promotes something that God hates.

And only a certain sort of person abides this lifestyle. V.5-6. They have calloused hearts with regard to their sin and so live in it day after day without repenting. Thus demonstrating their opposition to and distance from the kingdom of God. Loving what God hates excludes them from the blessed inheritance that the Ephesians themselves get to look forward to. Those who are content to live in their sexual immorality, or in other forms of uncleanness, or in their idolatrous greed must know that this is what God hates and it is because of them that God punishes them. As we read in Romans 1, not only does God punish sin, but he often punishes sin with sin, and even sexual sin. That he gives people over to what they want. He lets them dwell in their sin, and so is just in punishing them for the sin that they love.

And so, Paul’s main point here is v.7. The deeds of darkness are not fitting for the saints, they are not even fitting to be joked about because they are the things God hates, and they are out of step with the lifestyle of someone in the kingdom of God, an inheritor of salvation. And so they must not share in the lifestyle of the culture.

2. The Life of Light

But again, as Paul has been doing all throughout the letter, he grounds their activity, not in who they need to become, but in who they are. V.8. And isn’t that amazing to hear? That they were formerly darkness. You see, Paul is speaking to people he knows. He knows where they’ve come from and he knows that they formerly walked in darkness. And what does that mean? That they lived in the lifestyle that he has just been describing. They were those who were foolish talkers, coarse jesters, sexually immoral, unclean and greedy. They walked in step with the pattern of the culture they saw around them until they heard and believed the gospel. It’s like what he says in 1 Cor 6: “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.”

The point is that that life of darkness was put to an end by the cleansing of Jesus. Because they are now ‘in the Lord,’ that is, ‘in Jesus.’ That because of what he has done on the cross, those who lived their lives are not stained with sin any longer, but are perfectly holy for his sake. They are sanctified by him. This is the hope of the gospel. That people can come to Christ and have their sins washed away, that the guilt is gone and so is the darkness.

That by grace, verse 8 says, they are now light in the Lord. Jesus came as the light of God sent into the world, that the people who walk in darkness might see him, and even though the darkness did not comprehend him, this is the light that enlightens every man. He is the source of light for all humanity, and this means that those who believe in him are made light. Light on account of him.

And so to those who have been made into the children of light, made new by Jesus must walk as children of light. And what does such a walk look like? V.9. Not only is it a godly characteristic to live a righteous life according to his law, but also goodness. That godly character is adorned with those fruits of the spirit that amplify the attractiveness of the bearer of light. And in contrast to the deceptive nature of the old man and the corrupt speech, the one who walks in the light exhibits the truth.

And this does not come automatically, but is the fruit of careful attention. The word here in verse 10 means to put to the test. It means that the believer must put in effort to take the laws and principles of the bible and the virtues that we are called to demonstrate and make them concrete in our daily lives. You see, I’m sure that many of you have had difficult ethical situations and have had to wrestle with. When God’s law doesn’t lay out exactly what to do. Well, rest assured that this is a part of the Christian life, to examine what the Lord would have us do in those sticky situations with his word and the fruits of the spirit as our guide.

And so we walk as children of light. And what does light do when it comes in contact with darkness? The light dispels the darkness. And this is meant to be the effect that we as vessels of light have on the darkness that seeks to be so prevalent around us. That we are known to have no participation in those deeds. That when the darkness seeks to have its way, and when people act according to the deeds of darkness, their deeds are exposed by the fact that we refuse to participate. And especially here, that we refuse to participate in the sexual deeds that they revel in, and we refuse to joke about the things that God hates. And the same is true with every sin that characterizes the lives of our unbelieving neighbours. Whichever of the commands they are calloused to transgress, the light in us because of Jesus ought to expose that sin for what that truly is.

And the goal is not simply to be judgemental or critical of the people around us. But in fact the goal is a positive one. V.14. The goal is that by exposing the sin that is present in the darkness around us, the light that shines in us would make the things around us light as well. That in the same way as the light of Christ shines in us, they would be illuminated by that same light! That they would cast off the deeds of darkness that they are prone to by nature, and that they too would be children of light as we are. And that means, of course, that we must let our light shine before men, and that we must not hide it under a bushel, as Jesus said! We must shine in goodness and righteousness and truth, as our saviour did in the middle of a sinful world.

And this is the purpose of the final quote, to solidify the point that Paul has been making to the Ephesians through this whole section. That they have a new status as children of light. And it is interesting to note that Paul here does the same thing that he has done elsewhere in the letter. Remember in 4:8 when he said that Christ ‘gave gifts to men’ when the actual quote was that he ‘received’ gifts. And what we found was that this was not a direct quote, nor was it meant to be, but it was in fact an accurate reflection of the intention of the Psalm.

And the same is true here. This is not a direct quote, but summarizes OT teaching and prophecy from Isaiah, and interprets it in light of Christ. And here we have a combination of Isaiah 26: 19, “Your dead will live; Their corpses will rise. You who lie in the dust, awake and shout for joy.” And Isaiah 60:1-2, “Arise, shine; for your light has come, And the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. “For behold, darkness will cover the earth, And deep darkness the peoples; But the LORD will rise upon you, And His glory will appear upon you.”

And what you might notice about the context of both of these passages is that they are talking about the rebellion of man against God. And the solution to what man has done will come from God himself. In the middle of darkness, God brings life, God makes light to shine. And this is a prophecy of what Jesus came to do. To take people who were walking in darkness and shine his light on them, that they may in turn reflect his light in the world, living lives that are full of thanksgiving, lives that are fitting for saints.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. David Stares, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2019, Rev. David Stares

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