Summary: This continues in my expository series through the book of Acts.
The metaphors of darkness and light are widely used in the world of literature. Dylan Thomas wrote, “Do not go gentle into that good night; rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
One of the most often repeated image patterns in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet involves the interplay of light and darkness. For example, Romeo compares Juliet to light throughout the play. Upon first sight of her, Romeo exclaims that she teaches "the torches to burn bright" (I.5.43). She’s also "the sun" who can "kill the envious moon" (II.2.3). But Juliet’s light shows best against the darkness; she "hangs upon the cheek of night / As a rich jewel in an Ethiop’s ear" (I.5.44-45). Juliet also associates Romeo with a light that illuminates the darkness. If Juliet dies, she wants Romeo "cut in little stars / And he will make the face of heaven so fine / That all the world will be in love with night, / And pay no worship to the garish sun" (III.2.22-25).
Such metaphors are used significantly in the Bible as well. Darkness represents sin, the kingdom of this world, the domain of demons, the evil powers of Satan. We live in a world darkened by the existence of sin; ironically, the period of time we call the “Enlightenment” was an era when man emancipated himself from God, the Source of light, and in his enlightenment, man’s spiritual condition was darkened considerably. We are constantly reminded in the Bible not to walk in darkness, but that if we walk in the light, as Christ is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin.
We find Paul today in quite the sin-darkened place. Ephesus could be called a “center of magic”. Hughes wrote, “Ephesus was the waterhole for every kind of magician, witch, clairvoyant, and criminal. Con artists, murderers, and perverts all found the climate of Ephesus unusually agreeable.” It was a dark place spiritually, to say the least, perhaps not as sexually loose as Corinth, but a place filled with all sorts of spiritual and pseudo-spiritual things. Dark places sometimes aren’t the kind of places where Christians want to hang out—and sometimes, we shouldn’t—and yet, sometimes that exactly where we need to be, even where God puts us. Maybe your work is a place you find spiritually dark, perhaps morally repugnant. Perhaps that fact frustrates or discourages you, maybe even has you looking for a new job. That might be appropriate, particularly if the situation is such that you find yourself being influenced away from Christ, but it might well be that you are there to shine light in a dark place. Maybe the neighborhood in which you live is a dark place, but God means for you to shine there. That was certainly the case with the apostle Paul! Accordingly, of all Paul’s writings, his epistle to the Ephesians contains the most significant treatment of spiritual powers, and of the battles that Christians face against them. Certainly he wrote so extensively of the warfare that we face as Christians, a warfare between the forces of darkness and those of the Light, because of what he experienced while in this darkened city of Ephesus.