I am posting my notes for our upcoming Iron Men meeting. What is Iron Men? It’s a group of men in our church that meet once per week on Wednesdays at lunch (12 noon) to “sharpen” one another. The Bible says in Proverbs, “As iron sharpens iron, one man sharpens another.” So, we come together to push one another to be better men. Currently we are studying Ephesians chapter 5 in detail. We are actually working on memorizing it. Some have memorized up to 12 verses so far. This week we are working on verses 13-14 and the reason I’m posting this, is because I believe many of us struggle with how to be in the world and not “of it” or “immersed” in it. Take a look…
Iron Men-December 30, 2009
13But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, 14for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said: “Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Ephesians 5:13-14
Here are three great quotes that relate to our verses of study this week:
- “The most powerful sin in your life is the one you haven’t confessed yet.”
- “The actions of men are the best interpreters of their thoughts.”
- “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting. It’s been found difficult and left untried.”
Paul is teaching us that we are to expose sin by casting it in the light. Yet…I find that it’s often easy to compromise. There are many ways of compromising or taking part in the sins of others; by dabbling in sin on the edge or without going “whole hog.” Yet, if we share with others in their sins even from “a distance,” we must expect to share in their plagues. If we do not reprove or expose the sins of others, we have “fellowship” with them. We must see that sin is a breach of God’s holy law.
To review briefly…we are to “Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness.” The Greek verb koinoneo means “fellowship.” But in verse 11 Paul uses an intensified form of the verb: sunkoinoneo, which means “intimate fellowship.” We are not to be intimately involved with “the unfruitful works of darkness”–the ignorance and immorality of the world. However that doesn’t mean we can’t talk with unsaved people. (More on this in a minute.) We have been commissioned to reach them with the gospel, but we must not participate in their sin. Some people have suggested that our witness would be more effective if we got involved in their sin. That’s not true–it will destroy our testimony. The best way to witness to them is to avoid their evil deeds and show them a Christ-centered life.
In 1 Corinthians 5:9-13 Paul tells us that we shouldn’t associate with fornicators, covetors, and idolaters who claim to be Christians. But he didn’t forbid us from ministering to the people in the world characterized by those sins–they need us to reach out and love them. We only are commanded not to participate in their sin.
John MacArthur shares more on this by way of commentary on verses 13-14:
“The Lord Jesus plainly stated the biblical balance in His prayer (John 17:15-18): ‘I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.’ So we are to be in the world as Jesus was in the world, yet also not to be of the world, even as Jesus was not of the world. The way to keep this fine balance is to be sanctified (set apart) by God’s Word of truth. In our text, the apostle Paul is dealing with this issue as it concerned a church in a very pagan environment. How do we relate to our godless culture without becoming tainted by it? His answer is: We are to walk as children of light in this dark world, exposing the deeds of darkness.”
Do you remember the darkness you once walked in before knowing Christ? Here’s an interesting perspective as described by Stephen Cole:
“Paul says that we formerly were darkness. We were spiritually blind. We not only didn’t see God’s glory and truth, we didn’t have the ability or desire to see such things. We didn’t sense our need for the Savior, because we thought we were good enough to go to heaven and we didn’t understand the absolute holiness and justice of God. So we lived entirely for ourselves and our own pleasure, avoiding the thought of death and eternity. But, when God saved us, He opened the eyes of our understanding so that we saw ‘the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ’ (2 Cor. 4:6). We saw our true condition as guilty sinners, but we also saw the all sufficiency of Jesus and His death on the cross to cover all our sins. We had a new understanding of God’s Word and a new desire to know God and His truth more and more. We now hate the sin that we formerly lived in and we long to be like our Savior, holy in all our ways. We now walk in the light, rather than in darkness, because God has made us light in the Lord.”
Is this description by Mr. Cole true of us?
“But rather expose (reprove) them.” (v. 13)
The Greek word translated “reprove” in the King James means “to expose.” Rather than doing what people in the world do, we’re to expose their evil. You could call us the spiritual CIA: our job is to expose the crimes of darkness. Our tool is the Word of God: “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16, NASB, emphasis added). We’re to expose evil by our life and by our words.
Our commission is to expose sin in the world because we are the light. If we don’t do it, it won’t be exposed. No one is ever saved unless he comes to God and repents of his sin. But unbelievers won’t know what sin is unless someone exposes it to them. Fewer and fewer lost people are going to church. We must remember loving people while tolerating their sin is not evangelism. True evangelism makes people face the fact of their sin. Only we can do that because we are the light of the world. But, if we are living like the sinners, then they will never be changed because the sin will never be exposed to them. We must live differently from the world.
We expose the deeds of darkness by our godly lives as we maintain proper separation from the world. If we’re no different in our thinking, attitudes, words, and behavior than those that do not know Christ, we have no message to give them. If we profess to know Christ, but we’re not walking in the light, conforming our lives to His Word, then we would be better off not to let people know that we claim to be a Christian. We hurt the cause of the Gospel to do so. We shouldn’t link the holy name of the Lord with a disobedient lifestyle (2 Sam. 12:14). But, if we’re truly walking in the light, we can no longer join in the lifestyle of unbelievers.
We must be on our guard—bad company corrupts good character. We should not be best friends with an unbeliever once we have come to Christ. Our deepest friendships must be with those that share in common a love for Jesus Christ and the things of God. If we do not distance ourselves from our former friendships, those godless friends will pull us back into our old way of life. But, what about our witness you may ask? We must witness. Yes! We must be alert to our purpose—to win the lost to Christ. Jesus was known as a “friend of sinners,” but He did not “hang out” with them to have a good time. He came to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10). He said that He didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance (Luke 5:32). He kept a fine “balance” that is difficult to imitate. He maintained His holiness and yet He put sinners enough at ease so that they listened to His message. Jesus said (Matt. 5:16), “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”
We must be bold to identify verbally with Christ when we are pressured to compromise our convictions. This gets back to how we respond to dirty jokes or to someone who wants us to view pornography. Here’s the principle: Be as bold in your witness for Christ as the other person is in his solicitation to evil. If they are bold for Satan, why shouldn’t you be just as bold for the Savior? Smile and say firmly, “That offends my Lord,” or, “I can’t do that.” If he presses the matter, say, “I used to love that sort of thing, but now I belong to Jesus Christ and I want to please Him.” And share your concern for him, that without God (just as we were), we are in fear of facing God’s judgment, but Jesus offers a full and free pardon if he will repent and believe in Christ.
After all, we are commissioned by God to verbally expose the evil of the world. We must diagnose it, confront it, and then offer the solution. Sin is a cancer that must be removed. You aren’t helping anyone by ignoring it. We can’t politely live in the world and love people without ever acknowledging sin. That’s not evangelism. People need to be convicted about their sin before they’ll ever see the need for a Savior. One problem we have is that we don’t see the contrast between light and darkness as dramatically as God sees it. So instead of avoiding the deeds of darkness, we may be tempted to play around with them. We should be mature enough spiritually that we search out evil and expose it, and then offer the diagnosis and cure. Unfortunately many Christians are barely able to keep themselves from darkness, let alone help others out of it. As believers we need to expose evil, and when we do, it will have an impact on our lives.
The evil deeds of the world desperately need to be reproved (exposed). The things they do are unspeakably evil. We are drowning in a sea of evil as heavily promoted by the media. The danger is we can get caught up in sin. But we must not compromise–don’t ever entertain evil. Yet by watching certain television programs or movies or music in our homes or cars, we teach our children to tolerate the very things we shouldn’t even talk about. We must get beyond struggling over our sin. We must grow strong in the Word so we can reprove others and expose evil.
“Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead and Christ will shine on you.” (v.. 14)
This verse refers to what the prophet Isaiah said in Isaiah 60:1: “Arise, shine, for the light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon you.” That verse looked forward to the Messiah, and Paul’s interpretation looks back to what Christ has done. Many Bible commentators believe that Ephesians 5:14 is a line from an Easter hymn sung by the early church. They see it as an invitation–a gospel presentation. The sinner is the one who sleeps, the invitation is to awake and arise, and the Savior is Christ, who will give light. Like Rip Van Winkle, so many men and women are sleeping and are blind to their sin. They must awake and arise from the dead and we must help them by showing them the light of Christ.
As a pastor I offer this concluding comment from that perspective. The church “growth” movement of today tells us pastors that we should make the church a place where unbelievers feel “comfortable.” So, we’re told to avoid subjects like sin, righteous living, and the coming judgment. Instead, we’re told to focus on how to have a happy family, how to do well in business, how to overcome your addictions, and other “upbeat, self-help” topics. In other words, we’re not supposed to expose the unfruitful deeds of darkness, so that we don’t offend anyone. Just tell them how much God loves them! But Jesus said that the ministry of the Holy Spirit is to convict (same Greek word as “expose”) the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment. Without that conviction, unbelievers will not see their need and flee to the Savior. Forgiven little, they will love Jesus little. Paul’s strategy is better: Walk as a child of light, maintaining proper separation from the world and proper contact with the world. As we do, our godly lives and words will expose the deeds of darkness and some will awaken from the dead and Christ will shine on them, just as He has on us.