The first demand of walking according to light in Ephesians 5:11-14 is be separate, (v. 11a). Last time we began a look at the second—we are to take a stand in 11b-13: but rather reprove them. For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret. But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light.
It is extremely significant to notice that Paul issues a warning in verse 12: For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret. Yes, Paul commands that we are to expose sin, but he also qualifies it. Why do men do things in secret? Why do “men [love] darkness rather than light?” Because their “deeds [are] evil” (Jn. 3:19). Their deeds are detestable, disgraceful, and dishonorable.
Therefore, Paul says, it is a shame even to speak of those things. In other words, “In your exposing of sin, do not be overly explicit or detailed.” In other words, you don’t have to go into the gory details. There are some preachers today who are just too explicit and detailed in discussing moral issues. But God says that some things are so vile and wicked that He doesn’t even want us to hear about them. The sordid details of sin is not only unnecessary, but such details often arouse curiosity and even tempt people to sin.
How ridiculous is the argument, “Oh, but we should not be sheltered from such things; we need to know these things so we can be more effective in witness.” I have even read of some Christian leaders who have sat and watched pornographic films so that they could be “better informed.” May we submit that that is sin! Do these men actually think that Paul or the Lord Jesus Himself would have done such a thing? We don’t need to know such details. All we need to know is just enough to stay away and be rid of such things.
There is also the tendency to speak so candidly about past sin, from which God saved us, that it can actually become a temptation. I still remember being at a youth meeting back when I was a young adult and hearing a man who had been a gangster—a “Wiseguy” as they are called—give his testimony and go into some sordid details. Why do that? Why not just say, “Yes, I was a Wiseguy, but God graciously saved me before I got whacked” and leave it at that?
That great preacher Charles Spurgeon was keenly aware of this even in his day, over 100 years ago: “I feel grieved when I hear or read of people who can stand up and talk about what they used to do before they were converted very much in the way in which an old seafaring man talks of his voyages and storms. No, no; be ashamed of your former lusts in your ignorance, and if you must speak of them to the praise and glory of Christ, speak with bated breath and tears and sighs. Death, rottenness, corruption, are all most fitly left in silence, or, if they demand a voice, let it be as solemn and mournful as a knell.”
Verse 13 sums-up this second demand: But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light. This tells us that all things become visible when they are exposed to the light. It also declares another profound truth, that anything that does expose error is light. The opposite is also true: if a teaching does not expose error, it is not light. Mark it down, preaching that does not expose error—and we have a lot of it today—is not light. Many prominent Christian leaders today pride themselves in not preaching against sin and repackaging the Gospel to be appealing to one’s sense of purpose. But such error is not light.
How the light is hated by many today! The story is told of a colonial governor of the Bahamas who was about to return to England. Before departing, he offered to use his influence to acquire from the home government any favor the colonists might desire. The unanimous reply was startling! They cried: “Tell them to tear down the lighthouses; they are ruining the prosperity of this colony.” The people were salvagers. While many hate the light for their own gain, the true child of God loves the light and adores the Truth.
This leads us to the third demand, which we’ll examine next time.