Welcome to Expositing Ephesians

THIS BLOG IS DEDICATED to one of the chief passions of my life and ministry, The Epistle of Paul to the Ephesians. I believe this epistle is at the very core of the Christian life. I spent years in the study of it and then three and one half years expositing it from my pulpit. I hope this blog will be a blessing to you as I share that exposition. I also hope you will tell others about this blog. Please check for new posts each Monday .

Monday, June 29, 2015

The Details of Walking According to Light (1)

We now turn to the second division of Ephesians 5:8-10. Now that we know the difference between darkness and light, we are prepared to examine the details of walking according to light, as Paul declares in verse 9-10: For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth; Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord. We find here three things that prove we are walking according to light. By way of illustration, it is interesting to parallel this walking according to light with physical light. We all know that white light consists of all the spectral colors. We also know that there are three primary colors (red, blue, and green), and that any other color sensation can be duplicated by mixing varying quantities of these three. So, to parallel, we are about to examine the three primary characteristics of spiritual light.

First, is all goodness. Goodness was something Paul stressed often in his Epistles (e.g. Rom. 15:14; Gal. 5:22). We often hear the words “good” and goodness, but what exactly does that concept mean? There are three Greek words translated “good” or goodness in the New Testament.

One is kalos (137 times), which means “noble and beautiful.” Another is chrestos (7 times) which means “useful, good, suitable, proper.” But the word used in our text is agathosune (4 times), which comes from the root agathos (106 times). This important word refers to “virtue” and “uprightness of heart and life.” Therefore, to “be good” means to be virtuous, upright, and moral. What an admonition this is in light of the immorality of our day!

But the truth found in our text goes deeper yet with the word all. The Greek is pas, which is used, of course, as an adjective. Now, as one Greek authority points out, if pas is used with the article (“the”) it can have several meanings such as “all, whole, whoever, or generally.” But here in our text pas is used without the article. It can, therefore, mean one of two things: First, it can carry a distributive significance such as “each” or “every goodness,” or, second, it can have an elative significance such as “full” or “total goodness.” We submit, however, that in the final analysis BOTH of those should be true of the believer. Every single aspect of the Believer’s life AND the total sum of the Believer’s life is to be characterized by virtue, moral goodness, and impeccable character.

Corrie ten Boom’s father was a watchmaker, but there were times when business was down and there was financial need in the family. Corrie tells the story that during one of those times she watched how her father dealt with a wealthy customer who decided to buy an expensive watch with enough cash that would have meet all the family’s needs. But as she watched her father, who already had the cash in his hand, he did something that horrified her. She heard the customer say that he was buying the watch because Mr. ten Boom’s young competitor could not fix his old watch. Corrie’s father asked to see it, opened it, made a small adjustment, and handed it back saying, “There, that was a very little mistake. It will be fine now. Sir, I trust the young watchmaker. Someday he will be just as good as his father. So if you ever have a problem with one of his watches, come to me. I’ll help you out. Now I shall give you back your money and you return my watch.” Looking on in dismay, Corrie watched her father open the door for the man, bow deeply in his old-fashioned way, and the man walk out. She ran to her father with rebuke, only to be herself reproved gently and patiently through his steel-rimmed glasses, “Corrie, what do you think that young man would have said when he heard that one of his good customers had gone to Mr. ten Boom? Do you think that the name of the Lord would be honored? As for the money, trust the Lord, Corrie. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills and He will take care of us.”

That is character; that is all goodness.

Monday, June 22, 2015

The Difference Between Darkness and Light (3)

Considering once again Ephesians 5:8—For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light—we see first what we were as unbelievers—darkness and second what we are as Believers—light.

Third, we new see what we dowalk as children of light. This is, of course, the powerful application of what we have seen thus far. As our text says we ARE . . . light, it now says we are to walk AS children of light. As noted back in 5:1, there is nothing more imitative than a child. That is one way in which he or she learns. So, as children of God we are to mimic the Father; we think like God, act like God, feel like God. Likewise here we are to imitate the light that we are.

In other words, it does not say that we are to walk IN light. To say that would be like saying that the sun shines in its own light. We often hear that the Christian is to “walk in light,” but that is inaccurate. Why? Because, if we take the above analogy of the sun a little further, if we walk in light we will cast a shadow. But God does not want us to cast a shadow; He wants us to shine AS light.

To go deeper, please meditate on this: since we ARE . . . light, we are to act like light; we are to have the attributes of light. By our conduct, we show that we hate darkness and love light and desire always to “shine as lights in the world” and to serve as light bearers “in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation” (Phil. 2:15). Again, we don’t shine IN light but AS light. We are actually a light source, just as one candle can be used to light another.

What, then, are the “attributes” of light? As we mentioned last time, generally speaking light pictures two basic thoughts. 

1. In regard to the intellect, light pictures truth. So, to walk according to light means that we walk according to Truth; we walk AS Truth.. No longer are we ignorant, for the truth of Jesus Christ is in us. Moreover, walking according to light means that we are growing in the knowledge of Christ day-by-day.

2. In regard to morality, light pictures holiness. To walk according to light also means that we live a pure, holy life; we walk AS holy people. As we have already studied in the section about “walking in purity” (Eph. 4:17-32), all that we say and do shines forth the light of Christ which is in us.

Writing to the most carnal group of believers recorded in Scripture, Paul says in II Corinthians 6:14-7:1: “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.  Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”

That passage is perhaps the most dramatic example of the contrast between darkness and light to be found in Scripture. Indeed, a true believer cannot commune with darkness or with those who live according to darkness.

Monday, June 15, 2015

The Difference Between Darkness and Light (2)

Considering again Ephesians 5:8—For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light—we see first what we were as unbelievers—darkness.

Second, we see what we are as Believers—light, which is the phos (English “phosphorus,” etc.) and refers to light itself, not merely a lamp, candle, or any other source of light. When we couple this with the words but now ye are, we see that as we were once darkness, we are now . . . light.

What seems obvious about darkness and light is that they cannot coexist. If you turn on a light in a dark room, darkness flees. But it’s not as obvious in practical application. People talk much about “gray areas” of conduct, avoiding the terms “right or wrong” and “truth or error.” But the Scripture contains no such “gray areas.” Conduct is either moral or immoral, good or bad, true or false, right or wrong.

Throughout history darkness has been characterized by ignorance and immorality, but a certain amount of enlightenment came when men grew in knowledge. For example, many historians refer to the 18th Century as “The Age of Enlightenment” because men began to shun ignorance and superstition and seek knowledge and learning.

Again, all this is true historically only because it is true spiritually. Without doubt, it was the Reformation that began to bring light into the world. It was the reformers who proclaimed the light of the Gospel, and it was this that changed darkness into light. While not perfect, the Reformation did bring back the truth of salvation that had been lost for centuries.

Jesus Christ is, indeed, the only One Who brings light. He declared of Himself, “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (Jn. 8:12). The imagery here is unmistakable historically but is often missed in our day. When we realize where our Lord was standing when He uttered those words, only then can we see the full significance of what He was saying. The setting of this statement was the Illumination of the Temple ceremony that took place during the Feast of the Tabernacles (or Booths). That feast, which began five days after the Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), involved the Israelites presenting offering for seven days while they lived in huts (booths) made of palm fronds and leafy tree branches to remember their journey in Canaan (Lev. 23:43).

It was at the end of the feast that the Illumination ceremony took place, which is described in The Mishna. The Torah, of course, was what the Jews called “The Law,” the first five books of the Old Testament. Questions arose concerning the meanings of these laws, so over the years an oral law called “the tradition of the elders” developed, which was eventually written down around A.D. 200and named The Mishna, which means “repetition.” We read there of four tall, massive golden candleholders that stood in the Temple treasury. On top of each was a large torch and bowl containing a hundred and twenty logs (app. 20 gallons) of oil. There was also a ladder for each candleholder, which a priest would climb, pour oil into the bowl, place a wick in it that had been made out of old garments, and then lit it. The Mishna records that “there was not a courtyard in Jerusalem which was not lit up from the light.”

It was on that spot, according to John 8:20, that Jesus stood when he uttered those words, “I am the light of the world.” What a scene! In essence, our Lord was saying, “While these great torches light all of Jerusalem, I light the entire world. Only if you know Me, will you know light.”

Such knowledge, however, is more that simply head knowledge, which is not enough. Why? Because ignorance comes not from lack of general knowledge, such as math, grammar, or other scholastic knowledge, rather from a lack of personal knowledge of Jesus Christ. If we are ignorant of Christ, we are ignorant of everything, simply because He created everything (Jn. 1:1-3).

Further, it’s the personal knowledge of Jesus Christ that really changes the heart and mind of man. This is proven beyond doubt by the fact that civilized cultures have always, at some time in their history, had a strong Christian influence. That is not to say that that culture is deeply devout in spiritual things, but rather that there is a basic concept of God and His Word. This is true in America. Though the founding fathers were not all New Testament Christians (some were Deists), they founded America on basic Biblical principles. It’s only Christ Who brings meaningful knowledge, morality, and ethics to any society. Apart from God’s Truth and standards, ethics are relative at best and impossible at worst. God is the only One Who gives us light, and we must start with Him.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

The Difference Between Darkness and Light (1)

As we’ve noted, Ephesians chapters 4-6 reveal seven ways in which we are to walk, each of which in-turn is based on related doctrine in chapters 1-3. The first reality of our Christian walk is to walk in unity (4:1-16), the second is to walk in purity (4:17-32), and the third is to walk in love (5:1-7). We come now to the fourth, Walk in Light (5:8-14).

Ephesians 5:8 declares: For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light. Light is a symbol used quite often in Scripture. Most every Christian has heard that he is to “walk in light,” but what does that really mean? As our study progresses, we’ll see exactly what it means to walk in light, or, more accurately, to walk as children of light, or, “walk according to light.” We need to examine three principles: the difference between darkness and light (v. 8); the details of walking according to light (vs. 9-10); the demands of walking according to light (vs. 11-14).

Here in verse 8, then, we see the difference between darkness and light. Paul emphasizes three points.

First, we see what we were when we were unbelievers—darkness. The literal idea of the Greek behind sometimes (pote) is “at one time” or “formerly.” The Believer was “formerly in darkness” in the past, but no longer is that true of the believer. The focal point, of course, is the word darkness (skotos), which obviously means the absence of light. We all know what darkness is like. I remember when I was about twelve years old, our family took a vacation out West and took a tour of the Carlsbad Caverns. At one point our tour guide told us to stand absolutely still because he wanted to show us what dark is. He then he turned out the lights in the cavern, and I’ve never forgotten that dark. It was the total, absolute absence of light.

The point of skotos, however, goes deeper; it’s “chiefly of the effect of darkness upon man,” which is his limited ability to see and his subsequence groping in uncertainty. One commentator puts it brutally, but truthfully, “Darkness is the emblem and region of ignorance and depravity.” Ironically, Socrates agreed, “There is only one good, knowledge, and one evil, ignorance,” as did poet Robert Browning, “Ignorance is not innocence but sin.” So ignorance itself is sin. Why? Because whatever keeps us from God is sin, and ignorance does just that.

Ignorance is, indeed, man’s problem. As Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote in 1850, “Let knowledge grow from more to more.” But even in this age of incredible knowledge and astounding accomplishment, man is hopelessly ignorant. He is “ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (II Tim. 3:7).

Most significant of all, the verse does not say we were “IN” darkness, rather it says we WERE darkness. To illustrate, it’s not as if we used to live in a dark room and resided there like a piece of furniture, rather we were actually part of the darkness itself. What is the significance? Generally speaking light pictures two things: in regard to the Intellect, it pictures truth; in regard to morality, it pictures holiness. In contrast, when speaking of darkness, we see that the exact opposite is true: in regard to the intellect, it pictures ignorance; in regard to morality, it pictures impurity.

As one studies history he finds this is to be true. For example, what is called the “Dark Ages” (about 590-1517) was a time of great ignorance, superstition, and immorality. Likewise, because of the darkness that resides in man, man has been ignorant, superstitious, and immoral down through the ages. We need only think of the immoral practices of pagan religion, not to mention the immoral practices of modern society, to see that man truly IS darkness.

But why is all this true historically? Because it’s true spiritually. Men do not sin because they are IN darkness; men do not sin because of their circumstances. Thinking that man does wrong because of his circumstances or environment is what has given way to the extreme “behaviouristic” psychologies of today, which say that a person does wrong because of the atmosphere in which he was raised, the way his parents treated him, the way society treated him, and so that person is not really responsible for what he does; he really can’t help being the way he is. This gives man an excuse for his actions.

Such a view of man is a lie. Scripture declares that men sin because they ARE darkness. In other words, they are not IN darkness, rather darkness is IN THEM. We saw this vividly back in Ephesians 2:1-3, which vividly outlines man’s depravity.