Children of Light (Handout)

Children of Light

Ephesians 5:3–14 (NIV)


Main Idea Becoming a Christian entails the reception of an entirely new identity that Paul identifies as “light.” Believers are here summoned to live in accordance with their new identity, which will involve two important activities: (1) Christians need to entirely dissociate themselves from lifestyles associated with “darkness,” that is, evil, sinful behaviors; and, (2) as members of a new community, believers need to expose the deeds of their sinning brothers and sisters as part of a process of restoration that will result in their growth to maturity in Christ. – Clinton Arnold


Ephesians 5:3–14 (NIV) 3 But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. 4 Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. 5 For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. 7 Therefore do not be partners with them. 8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord. 11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. 13 But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. 14 This is why it is said: “Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”


Don’t be fooled, he says (verse 6). There are a lot of empty words out there—words, that is, which sound big and important, which echo and resonate in our culture, but which have nothing inside them, no life, no truth. Precisely because sex is a good and important part of God’s creation of the animal kingdom, and of humans within it; precisely because it is the means of tenderness and intimacy between husband and wife, as well as the means of God-given procreation; precisely because it is the occasion for great blessing and emotional fulfilment; because of all these, people on the road to the genuinely human existence promised in Christ must avoid all cheap imitations. Casual sex is a parody of the real thing—like drinking from a muddy stream instead of fresh, clear water, or like listening to a symphony on a damaged record or tape player when a world-class orchestra is playing in the theatre around the corner. All the evidence of the ‘liberated’ Western world suggests that these are indeed empty words. Those who relentlessly pursue new experiences regularly end up bitter and disappointed. The emotional electricity, or even the danger, of an illicit or casual relationship may be exciting, but the excitement is of the same sort as you’d get from a drug like cocaine or heroin. It promises the earth and ends up killing you—if not physically, then certainly emotionally. Every time two people make love physically, their bodies are saying, ‘We belong to each other, totally, completely and for ever.’ If that isn’t true, and if it isn’t known by both to be true—if it’s just an experiment, a nice idea at the time, a trial arrangement—their bodies are telling a lie. Sooner or later, the lie will come out. – N.T. Wright

Sins of the tongue (5:4). This verse is an expansion of 4:29. The three words for sins of speech in this verse occur nowhere else in the New Testament, although cognates appear of the word translated “obscenity” (aischrotes; see, e.g. Col. 3:8). The root expresses that which is shameful or disgraceful; while the word could have a wider reference, its being paired here with two words on speech here indicates that Paul’s concern is about shameful and indecent language. “Foolish talk” (morologia) suggests speech from a fool (one void of understanding) and brings to mind the frequent condemnation of the fool in Old Testament wisdom literature. “Coarse joking” (eutrapelia) usually has a positive meaning outside the New Testament, but clearly is negative here. It suggests something easily turned, a double entendre—speech innocuous in itself but turned to have an indecent intent. Such speech is not fitting for the believer.  What is fitting for God’s people is “thanksgiving.” The word group for “giving thanks” appears elsewhere in Ephesians only at 1:16 and 5:20, the latter referring to thanksgiving as a mark of being filled with the Spirit. Thanksgiving is an important component in Paul’s thought. It is the basic attitude of the Christian, for it forces attention on God, his grace, and his desires rather than on one’s own desires. P. T. O’Brien suggests the term is a virtual synonym for the Christian life  (see esp. Rom. 1:21; 14:6; 2 Cor. 4:15; Col. 3:17). – Klyne Snodgrass