"Children of Light."

Ephesians 5:3-21.

Believers are exhorted to be "imitators of God as dear children." Now God has revealed Himself as love and as light. He is of course righteous and holy but we never read that God is righteousness or holiness, whereas we do read that "God is love," and that "God is light." In former verses God is seen as love, and hence we are told to "walk in love." Here God is seen as light, and hence we are told to "walk as children of light."

The universal principle is, that believers are to "walk worthy of the vocation wherewith they are called." Since, then, believers are "called to be saints," or "called saints" (Rom. 1:7; 1 Cor. 1:2), their ways should be such as are suitable for saints. So it is here. They are not called to become saints by a saintly walk, but are urged to a saintly walk because they are saints through God's calling. Hence the apostle says, "But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient [or suitable]: but rather giving of thanks." (vv. 3, 4.) These believers had once walked in the lusts of the flesh, "fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind." But they were now saints, or sanctified; and having the life of Christ, they were to show forth this life in their walk. How unfit for those thus sanctified to be walking in uncleanness! How unbecoming in the followers of Him who, though rich, for our sakes became poor, to be eagerly clutching at the riches of this world! Nor is it merely in deed, but in word, that believers are to act "as becometh saints." The light, foolish, and often filthy talk to which as heathen they had been accustomed was as little suitable to those "quickened together with Christ" as the deeds named in the previous verse, and must be just as completely put away. The lightness of heart which in the old man thus expressed itself, might now in the new man find a suitable expression in the "giving of thanks."

But another motive is added. "For this we know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God." (v. 5.) The believer is a joint-heir with Christ; for in Him "we have obtained an inheritance." But if we are to have part "in the kingdom of Christ and of God," we must be morally suited to it in character. As seen in Christ indeed we are already made "meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light;" but here the question is not so much one of standing as of conduct. And in this too the great principle holds, that if we are to be in God's presence, we must be fitted for it; "for without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie."

No doubt there is often grievous failure; but this does not alter the principle. What distinguishes a well-governed state is order and obedience to law. What distinguishes the kingdom of God is holiness and purity of walk. There are, even in a well-governed state, instances of disorder and disobedience to law; and there are, even among members of the kingdom of God, instances of unholiness and impurity of walk. But in both cases this is a departure from the normal order. In both cases the distinguishing characteristic is not the departure from the normal order, but the normal order itself. Thus licence and immorality are condemned equally by the grace and by the government of God, and the believer is appealed to, both as a saint and as a member of the kingdom of Christ and of God, to walk worthy of the vocation wherewith he is called.

Man's vain philosophy might indeed seek to pervert the doctrine of grace into a sanction of immorality; but against such corruptions of the truth the apostle warns them: "Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. Be not ye therefore partakers with them." (vv. 6, 7.) There needs no lengthened argument. The vanity of the teaching which would sanction such practices is seen at once by the fact, that these were the very practices for which God's judgment comes upon the children of disobedience. They had been in this condition themselves; walking "according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of, disobedience." But God had called them out of it; and how could He possibly endure that they should walk in the very acts from which they were thus delivered? "For," he argues, "ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light: (for the fruit of the light is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;) proving what is acceptable unto the Lord." (vv. 8-10.)

"God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all." Christ has come to reveal God in this as in all other ways. He is "the true Light, which, coming into the world, lighteth every man." Hence He speaks of Himself as "the light of the world," and declares that "he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life." (John 8:12.) The character of the believer is therefore that he has left the darkness, and is in the light. Now Scripture knows no such thought as a man who is in the light walking in darkness. It knows indeed, and gives abundant instances, of the failing and falling of believers; of those who are in the light not acting up to it; and of much else which shows how the flesh, where allowed to work, is just as bad in the converted as in the unconverted person. But for all this the human thought that a believer can, because secured through grace, continue to walk and delight in sin is utterly opposed to the teaching of God's word: "If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: but if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanseth us from all sin." (1 John 1:6-7.) The two broad classes are therefore the believer, who walks in the light, and has fellowship with God; and the unbeliever, who walks in darkness, and has no fellowship. The Ephesian converts had once belonged to the former class, but were now in the latter. As children of the light, they were to show what was acceptable to God; to bring forth the fruit of light (not of the Spirit, as in the English version), which are "goodness, and righteousness, and truth."

Where light is, darkness disappears. The light of God shining into the heart dispels the evil; not indeed changing the old nature, but enabling us to judge it and its deeds; to take the place of Job, when he saw himself in God's presence: "Now mine eye seeth thee; wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes." (Job 42:5-6.) Hence, where the rays of God's light are allowed to search the heart there is real and deep judgment of evil, as well as practical separation from it. So the apostle goes on: "And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, 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. Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light." (vv. 11-14.) The believer not only walks in the light, but by so doing becomes himself a source of light. He does more than refuse to have fellowship with "the unfruitful works of darkness;" as "light in the Lord" he reproves them. Noah "condemned the world." His own faith and walk were the lights which disclosed the thickness of the moral darkness around. So our Lord says, "If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloke for their sin." (John 15:22.) Thus it must ever be in God's moral government. Darkness does not discover itself, but is discovered by the light. Mere philosophy, however deep, cannot show things according to God's thoughts. Life and light must go together. There must be divine life in the soul before God's light can be received. Only the quickened soul can discern in Christ the light of the world, and see all things in the form and colour in which this light reveals them. "Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light."

The whole of the preceding exhortations are thus briefly summarized "See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is." (vv. 15-17.) Folly and wisdom in Scripture are not merely intellectual qualities, but have always a moral character. It is the fool who says in his heart, "There is no God." It is the fear of the Lord that is declared to be the beginning of wisdom. The believer as a child of light has "the mind of Christ;" he has the Holy Ghost to teach him the deep things of God. However little gifted in mere worldly wisdom or knowledge, he has "an unction from the Holy One," and so has the mind of God in all that concerns His things. But the flesh is constantly present to lust against the Spirit, and it needs circumspection therefore, constant watchfulness, to walk as wise men, and not as fools. This is what the Christian is exhorted to exercise. If he is called out of the folly of the world, and has the hidden wisdom of God given him, he is urged to walk worthy of his vocation. And this is all the more necessary because the times are evil, so that every opportunity needs to be seized.

A particular example is then given which illustrates the principles thus laid down: "And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God." (vv. 18-21.) The world's joy expresses itself in a carnal manner; it is mere natural excitement, such as that caused by wine. The believer's is to be in contrast with this. It is not the exhilaration ministered by mere natural causes, but the deeper delight ministered by the Spirit of God. It is one thing to be indwelt by the Spirit, and another to be filled with the Spirit. All believers are indwelt; but how few, alas, are filled! As we have seen in former numbers, the Spirit, though still sealing, may be grieved, and not able to minister either peace or joy. But to be filled with the Spirit is to be under the direct energy of the Spirit's action. It is here put in contrast with the forced, natural mirth caused by wine. In place of this the believer should have the joy and happiness shed abroad in his heart by the Holy Ghost. This will find its suitable outlet in expressions of joy; not the foolish songs of the world, but the psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs in which the heart, filled with the sense of God's goodness, delights to pour forth its feelings. Thanksgiving is as natural to hearts thus tuned as the idle songs of the world are to the heart excited by the world's gaiety and folly.

There is another word added which seems to come in somewhat strangely: "Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God." The mirth excited by wine is quarrelsome and self-assertive; not so the gladness of heart shed abroad by the Spirit. The deep sense of grace which calls forth praise and thanksgiving to God humbles instead of exalting. The fuller the heart is of praise to God the lower it will be in its own esteem, and hence the submission one to another; not indeed out of simple kindness and good-nature, but in the deep sense of the fear of God, which never ceases to fill the heart occupied with His goodness and love. T. B. Baines.