Summary: The 1) Contrast (Ephesians 5:8) , 2) Characteristics (Ephesians 5:9–10), 3) Command (Ephesians 5:11a) 4) Commission (Ephesians 5:11b–13) and 5) Call (Ephesians 5: 14) of Christians as God’s own children of light.
For anyone who remembers the days when just one Spider-Man movie seemed impossible, it is an astonishing how comic book superheroes now dominate popular entertainment. There is a precise schedule of superhero movies to be released over the next six years. Even with such a variety of movies there is a common light and darkness theme. The good guys shed light on and defeat the bad guys dark activities.
In Scripture the figurative use of light has two aspects, the intellectual and the moral. Intellectually it represents truth, whereas morally it represents holiness. To live in light therefore means to live in truth and in holiness. The figure of darkness has the same two aspects. Intellectually it represents ignorance and falsehood, whereas morally it connotes evil. The intellectual aspect of both figures pertains to what a person knows and believes, and the moral aspect pertains to way one thinks and acts
Ephesians 5:8-14 continues the emphasis on believers’ being “imitators of God, as beloved children” (5:1). The first way we are to imitate God is in His love, which Paul shows both in its true and in its counterfeit forms, with Christ Himself being our divine pattern (vv. 2–7). In verses 8–14 the focus is on our imitating God in relation to light. For a believer to imitate God, therefore, they obviously must share in and reflect God’s light. Paul moves from the ‘indicative’ of what they are in the Lord to the ‘imperative’ of how they should live (O’Brien, P. T. (1999). The letter to the Ephesians (p. 367). Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.)
In verses 8–14 Paul mentions five practical features we should recognize in order to faithfully walk in God’s light. He gives the 1) Contrast(Ephesians 5:8) , 2) Characteristics (Ephesians 5:9–10), 3) Command(Ephesians 5:11a) 4) Commission(Ephesians 5:11b–13) and 5) Call (Ephesians 5: 14) of Christians as God’s own children of light.
1) The Contrast (Ephesians 5:8)
Ephesians 5:8 for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (ESV)
Paul here contrasts what every believer’s life was like before salvation with what God intends it to be like after salvation. In doing so he simply states what should be obvious: A person who has been saved from sin should be through with sin and should live as a redeemed and purified child of God. To illustrate that point the apostle uses the common biblical figures of darkness and light.
His contrast begins looking back at one time. This verb expressed at one time/were reveals two important realities. First, the past tense indicates a condition that no longer exists, and that truth is reinforced by the modifier were/formerly. Earlier in the letter, Paul says that we “were dead in [our] trespasses and sins,” that we “formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air,” and that “we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest” (Eph. 2:1–3). For Christians, both intellectual and moral darkness are a thing of the past (cf 4:17–20). The IMPERFECT ACTIVE verb in the first phrase describes their previous life as continuously sinning (cf. Gen. 6:5, 11–12: 8:21; Ps. 14:3; 58:3; Jer. 12:9) (Utley, R. J. (1997). Paul Bound, the Gospel Unbound: Letters from Prison (Colossians, Ephesians and Philemon, then later, Philippians) (Vol. Volume 8, p. 126). Marshall, TX: Bible Lessons International.).
Second, the verb is not modified by a pronoun, such as in or of. It says we were … darkness. Before we came to Christ our total existence—our being as well as our behavior—was characterized by darkness. Their was no other aspect to our spiritual life than that of darkness. We were children of darkness and “sons of disobedience” (Eph. 5:6). We were not simply victims of Satan’s system but were contributors to it. Our very nature was characterized by sin. This darkness was the work of Satan (John 8:44; cf vv. 38, 41). It is the domain of Satan (cf Rom. 6:17–18, 22; 7:22; Ps. 119). This spiritual darkness brings God's penalty (Eph. 2:3, 5:6), and it leads to the ultimate destiny of eternal darkness (Matt. 8:12; cf 1 Sam. 2:9; 2 Pet. 2:17).
Please turn to John 3 (p.888)
If this is the sure result of darkness why do people not wish deliverance? When God’s supreme reality is offered in Jesus Christ, people turn away because the reality of His righteousness and goodness also reveals the reality of their own sin and wickedness. Jesus said:
John 3:19-21 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God." (ESV)