Commentary on Ephesians, 5:8-10

Ephesians 5:8-10

8 For you were once darkness, but are now light in the Lord; walk as children of light
9 (for the fruit of the light is in all goodness and righteousness and truth),

In verses 5-7 Paul gave the Ephesian Christians warning about living in a way that would end in the judgment of God and being shut out from the Kingdom of Christ and God. We discussed how such a lifestyle of sin is a demonstration of an absence of true faith, and how a Christian can stray from true faith. 

Now he is reminding them of their previous life without Christ, how they “were once darkness, but are now light in the Lord.” In regard to that, when Jesus appeared to Paul at his conversion and call, He said to him:

“17…delivering you from the people, and from the Gentiles to whom I send you,
18 to open their eyes, that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive remission of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.”  (Acts 26:17,18

When God opens our spiritual eyes to the truth, and we turn to Christ in faith, we go from darkness to light, from “the power of Satan to God,” from the domain of darkness to the Kingdom of Christ” (Col 1:13). Paul is reminding them of who we are in Christ, and how our walk should reflect that truth. We are “light in the Lord,” therefore, as the moon reflects the sun, so ought our life reflect the light of Christ. We are “children of light,” therefore, we are to “walk” as children of light.

As children of God, we are to live accordingly, for like begets like. We should live our lives with a constant awareness of where we once were, and where we are now in our relationship with God. We can only maintain this awareness as we stay in the Word of God and in His presence. We have short memories, and are easily influenced. If we don’t stay close to Jesus, we will begin to drift back into the world where the influence of the world’s ways will begin to take hold of us and shape us into its image. When that occurs, we are no longer reflecting the light of Christ, but the darkness of the world.

“9 (for the fruit of the light is in all goodness and righteousness and truth),”

The fruit of light, the fruit of those who belong to Christ, is:

“goodness”  (Gr. agathosune – 19)

Uprightness of heart and life. Revealed in kindness toward others. Expositor’s Bible Commentary: “Is the achievement of moral excellence combined with a generous spirit.”

Those who walk in the Spirit and in the light of Christ, will have excellent, unquestionable character. Who we are in private is who we really are. That is our true character. Those of excellent character will be like Christ not only when surrounded by others, but when no one else is around. There will be no difference. When people observe our lives, they should see a genuine goodness in us.

“righteousness”  (Gr. dikaiosune – 1343)

Rightness of character and rightness of action; integrity. Does what is right in keeping with the will of God. Those who are righteous before God are always concerned and focused on doing the will of God. For the Christian, nothing else matters. We are to be without a will of our own, only as He shapes it according to His own.

“truth”  (Gr. aletheia – 225)

Truth according to God, as opposed to what is false. Involves honesty, reliability, integrity. There is only one truth, and that is the truth that is in Christ, for He said “I am the truth” (John 14:6). There is no truth apart from Him. Therefore, as His followers, we are to walk in His truth. We are to reject the false ways of the world, while saturating our minds with the truth of God’s Word. We cannot walk in the truth unless we are in the truth.

Truth is all-important to the Christian, yet, there seems to be such a lack of interest in learning the truth. There doesn’t seem to be much interest in learning God’s Word. There seems to be so few Christians who consider it important enough to give it the time and attention that it deserves. As those who are of the truth, we need to discipline ourselves to the study of it as a way of life.

We can be so easily deceived about so many things if we’re not properly grounded in the truth. Even in the church there are so many things being taught that simply aren’t the truth. Calvinism/Reformed theology is an example of that. There are many other things that are being taught as truth in the church today, and the only way to protect ourselves from deception is to stay in the Word, and to learn it according to proper rules of interpretation. 

Here are a few of those rules:

1.  Make it a practice to keep reading through the Bible. A word of caution is in order here. While reading through the Old Testament, continue to read through the New Testament. We can become easily confused by what the Old Testament says if we do not have a proper understanding of the New. The OT is to be interpreted by the NT. If we get this backwards, we will have a false understanding of how to apply the OT to our lives as Christians under grace. I would encourage reading through the NT 2 or 3 times a year, and the OT perhaps once every 2 years. 

You will find that after many years of reading through the Bible many times, as you’re studying the Bible, so many Scriptures will automatically come to mind, and will aid in your understanding of it. When we begin our journey as new Christians, the Bible seems like a huge, complicated book. But you will discover that the Bible becomes smaller and smaller, and less and less complicated as the years go by as we’re faithfully reading it and studying it. 

2.  Context, context Context. When learning the meaning of a verse or passage, it must be viewed within context:  immediate context, context of the whole chapter, context of the book, context of the whole Bible, and particularly within the context of the whole New Testament.

It’s especially important to consider what is being said before and after. If we just pull a verse out of its context and try to figure out what it means by itself, it will result in all kinds false understanding and false teaching. There are many verses that can stand on their own, but we’re never to assume that. Consider everything that is being said in light of what everything else is being said about it. 

3.  Consider the historical setting, and the local customs of the day. Bible commentaries and Bible dictionaries and Bible encyclopedias are very helpful here.

4.  Get into the habit of looking up key words in the Greek (Hebrew for OT). It will greatly aid in your understanding of what the writer was really saying. Our English language is not as precise as the Greek, so it’s wise to consider the meaning of NT words as they were understood by the people when the language was in common use.

5.  Read many commentaries (Preferably written from an Arminian perspective). It’s simply not wise not to consult with others whom God has blessed with the gift of teaching. We will never be in complete agreement with any one commentary, but as we stay close to the Lord and are being led by the Spirit, He will give us discernment as we seek the truth. One way reading commentaries that has benefited me personally, is that oftentimes I’ll be reading something that triggers a thought that will lead me down a rich path of understanding that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. 

I want to add, that it’s really important to be teachable. The fact that you’re reading this tells me that you are. We should never get to the point where we think we know it all, and can’t learn from others. That’s prideful thinking, and it will not lead to a correct understanding of the truth, for God “opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (1 Pet 5:5).

6.  Do word studies. Look up all the occurrences of a particular word in a concordance. Such a study of those occurrences within their individual context, is a very fruitful learning experience. However, be mindful of the fact that the same English word may represent more than one Greek word. So it’s important to look up each of those words in the Greek.

7.  Clearly understood verses are to be foundational.  I saved this one for last, because I consider it to be one of the most important rules. I have talked about this many times in my writings, because I believe it’s one of the main reasons for so much false understanding and false teaching in the church.

Regarding any given subject, we’re to take all the verses dealing with that subject, and separate the clearly understood verses from the more difficult ones. The clearly understood verses are then to be used as our foundation. The difficult verses must be interpreted by the clearly understood verses. If we get that backwards, we will likely come to a wrong understanding regarding that particular subject. I see this as the most blatant error of Calvinism. 

This is perhaps why there are so many cults that use the Bible. They take a difficult verse out of context, attach a meaning to it, and then they’re forced to make the clearly understood verses mean something that is obviously contrary to what is actually being said. Calvinism is guilty of the very same thing. An entire false theology and religion can result from such a practice. 

“10 proving what is well-pleasing to the Lord;”

“proving”  (Gr. dokimazo – 1381)

To test, to examine for genuineness. Involves being able to properly discern.

As followers of Christ, we’re to live our lives for the purpose of pleasing Him. However, in order to do that, we must know what it is that pleases Him. We can only do that by staying in His Word. There is no substitute for that. Living in this world, with all its worldly ways and philosophies, we can easily be misled contrary to the truth if we’re not diligently learning God’s Word and God’s will. The world is hurling so many things at us, trying to get us to conform, how are we going to discern God’s point of view, if we’re not committed to learning God’s point of view? 

As we walk in the light as “children of light,” we will be able to discern the things that please God, the things that are “good” and “righteous” and “true.” The light of Christ will shine upon the dark things of this world, exposing them for what they really are in the eyes of God.