“From Darkness to Light” (Ephesians 5:6-21)

Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost
August 19, 2018

“From Darkness to Light” (Ephesians 5:6-21)

Have you ever come out of a really dark room into a bright, sunlit area? It takes a few moments to get used to, doesn’t it? Your eyes have to adjust to the new reality. But once they do, you have so much a better view of what’s around you and in front of you. No longer are you stumbling around in the dark, bumping into things. Now you can see clearly where to walk, what’s the right way to go. Well, that’s kind of how it is for us as Christians. We have come out of the darkness and into the light. It is the light of Christ we’re walking in now. And that makes all the difference. And so our theme this morning: “From Darkness to Light.”

Our text is the Epistle for today, from Ephesians 5. In this passage, as we see throughout the second half of Ephesians, St. Paul is addressing the question: Now that we are Christians, how shall we live? What difference does being a Christian make in the way we think and speak and act? Last week, Paul told us to put off our old self and to put on the new self, created in Christ Jesus. Now today, Paul continues this idea, but he changes the imagery. Instead of using the image of taking off and putting on clothing, now Paul draws a sharp contrast between darkness and light. He tells us, very clearly: “You were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.” What this means for our lives is what we will now explore.

“You were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.” The contrast between darkness and light is familiar imagery in the Bible. It’s all over the place, from Genesis to Revelation. Darkness is associated with the state of this world–shrouded in darkness and ignorance, in sin and unbelief. Light, on the other hand–light has to do with life and knowledge and righteousness. Darkness is the fallen state of man apart from God. Light is the graced condition of God’s own people. Darkness and light, old and new, lost and saved, dead and alive, outsiders and insiders–the Bible uses all of these contrasting pairs to talk about life apart from Christ versus the life now in Christ. Today the contrast is between darkness and light. So let’s look at both of these, how Paul describes each of these states, and we’ll see how this guides us as to how we will live in the days ahead.

We start with darkness. Indeed, that was our starting point. Like the rest of mankind, we were in the darkness. In fact, Paul puts it even more strongly than that. He says, “You were darkness.” Notice, not just “You were in darkness,” but “You were darkness.” Darkness was in our very nature–our fallen sinful nature, corrupted by original sin, lacking the true knowledge and fear of God. That is who we were: Darkness. That is how the world is, the values of this world, the world system, which is aligned against God and his ways.

So how does Paul describe this world of darkness? I think we can cover it in three words: disobedient, deceptive, and deadly. All three of these points are made in this one verse: “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.”

The darkness of this world is disobedient, deceptive, and deadly. First of all, it is disobedient. Here Paul calls the children of this world “sons of disobedience.” That is their natural condition and character, passed down from generation to generation. It goes all the way back to our first parents and their original disobedience in the garden. “Sons of disobedience”: That’s who the world is. That’s who we were by nature. The children of this world do not hearken to the voice of God. They do not listen to what he says. They ignore and reject his word. That’s what it means to disobey. It is a personal sin; it is rebellion against God himself. And it takes shape in the breaking of his commandments. God gave us his commandments for our own good. Our Creator knows what’s best for us, after all. But the sons of disobedience think they know better than God. Now that is real darkness! How clueless do you have to be to think you know better than God? But that is what the sons of disobedience do.

The darkness is disobedient. Secondly, it is deceptive. It even tries to deceive us Christians, tries to pull us back into the darkness. That’s why Paul says: “Let no one deceive you with empty words.” The world whispers in our ear: “Aw, come on! Nobody’s watching. Nobody will know. And it’s all right. After all, you deserve to have some fun!” This is how the world speaks to us. The messages we get in the pop culture, through the mass media, in education, movies, television, music, advertising–all of them are telling us: “There are no more standards of right and wrong. Do whatever you like, whatever makes you feel happy. You’re worth it.”

These are just variations on an old theme. That old deceiver Satan whispered the same message into the ears of Adam and Eve: “Go ahead! Nothing bad will happen!” And we fell for it. Fell hard, fell into sin. And we’ve been falling for it ever since. The darkness is deceptive.

Disobedient, deceptive, and third, the darkness is deadly. The original deception led to the original disobedience, and that in turn brought about death. The wages of sin is death. Or, as Paul puts it here in Ephesians: “for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.” The wrath of God is his judgment, his righteous anger poured out on rebel sinners. The darkness is the realm of death, death under God’s wrath. Death comes on men now, in time. And it will come definitively and finally and eternally on the Last Day.

That’s why Paul warns us about going back into the darkness, about getting matched up again with, and influenced by, the sons of disobedience. He warns us against taking part in what he calls “the unfruitful works of darkness.” “Because of these things,” he says, the wrath of God is coming. What are these works of darkness? In the verses leading up to our text, Paul mentioned some examples. He especially mentions sexual immorality and covetousness. There are other works of darkness, to be sure, but these are a couple of prime examples. Sexual immorality, for instance: This covers the whole waterfront of impurity. And this is where the deceptive nature of the darkness comes in. Think of all the behaviors that the world now says are OK, but which God’s word still says are wrong–things like homosexuality, adultery, divorce, living together outside of marriage, pornography. For instance, Friday night the St. Louis Cardinals had a homosexual “Pride” night. They are proud of what is shameful. Glorifying such sinful, shameful behavior–and castigating those who object as bigots–this is an example of the darkness that the world promotes. “Because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.” But our contemporary American culture would deceive us into condoning these works of darkness, or even taking part in them ourselves.

But dear Christians, that is not who you are anymore! St. Paul writes: “Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.” You see, now you can see–you can see everything now in a new light. Now we are in the light. More than that, now we are light. “Now you are light in the Lord,” Paul says. Therefore, “walk as children of light.”

We described the darkness in three words: disobedient, deceptive, and deadly. Now we’ll describe the light in three different words: wakened, walking, and wise.

First, wakened. We were dead when we were darkness, back before we knew Christ. But now we have been wakened, wakened from the dead. Paul here quotes from what must have been an early Christian hymn: “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Hey, that’s us! That’s what happened to us, when God woke us up. God gave us the great wake-up call. We were out of it, asleep, dead, unconscious. We were snoozing away in the dark, oblivious to what the real reality was, the way things were between God and us. But God called us and woke us up. He awakened us from the slumber of spiritual death. God called us by the gospel, raised us up from the dead through his life-giving word. God brought us to a living faith in Christ. “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Yes, Jesus Christ is the Light of the world, and he shines his life-giving light on us.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. It never will. The light of Christ shone in the darkness on that dark Friday, when darkness covered the land, during the hours when Christ was hanging on the cross. In that darkness, God’s own Son was taking the judgment and wrath that we all deserved, and he suffered it in our place. The Savior of mankind, Jesus Christ, took all of your sins, all of your death, and he died to take them off of you. And it worked! Christ Jesus arose on Easter morning, and a new day dawned for all who trust in him. His light of life disperses our darkness. In Holy Baptism, the light becomes ours, because there we are joined to Jesus, connected to Christ. Baptism therefore is an enlightening. The Holy Spirit enlightens our minds and souls with new light. We are wakened.

Once wakened, now we start walking. “Walking” is the Bible’s way of saying how you live, how you conduct your life in a consistent manner. And Paul here tells us, “Walk as children of light.” You have the light within you. You are light now, being connected to the Lord. Therefore walk in the light. Conduct your life now in a manner fitting for children of light.

We have been wakened, we are walking, and we are called to be wise. That’s the third thing about living in the light: It is wise. Wisdom is knowledge applied. It is sound judgment, right decision-making. To be wise means to ponder questions like these: What is the will of God? How would he have me live? What goes with being a Christian? Certainly, the Ten Commandments give us the broad strokes: what to do, what not to do. The power to live that way, though, comes not from the Law but from the Gospel. The Gospel empowers our new life in Christ. But the shape of that new life will always conform to the will of God as expressed in his holy commandments. This is the way that is good and right and true. Walk ye in it. This is walking in the light, walking as children of light. We can see now the right path to walk in, what it looks like. The word of God will warn you when you’re veering off course. Listen to that divine GPS. It’s the Holy Spirit speaking to you through the word you have heard preached and taught. As a Christian, you can tell the difference between the darkness and the light, when you are guided by God’s word. So stay where it’s light.

The darkness is disobedient, deceptive, and deadly. Don’t go there. The light is who you are now: wakened from the dead, walking in the way of righteousness, wise in discerning the will of the Lord. Oh, and one more thing about the light: It is joyful! There is real joy in walking as children of light. When we think of all that God has done for us, delivering us out of darkness and bringing us into the kingdom of light–well, it makes your spirit sing! And so we close on that joyful note: “Be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Published in: on August 18, 2018 at 7:47 pm  Comments (1)  
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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Nice sermon!

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