Summary: The concept of imitating God in Ephesians 5:8-14 teaches us to walk in light.
Last week I began a sermon series in Ephesians 5:1-21 that I am calling, “Be Imitators of God.”
In his letter to the Ephesian Christians, the Apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 5:1a, “Therefore be imitators of God.” That is Paul’s overall command for this section of Scripture. He then gave three ways in which Christians are to be imitators of God. First, Christians are to walk in love (which we examined last week). Second, Christians are to walk in light (which we will examine today). And third, Christians are to walk in wisdom (which we will examine next time).
So, let’s read about walking in light in Ephesians 5:8-14:
8 …for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), 10 and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. 13 But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, 14 for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,
“Awake, O sleeper,
and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.” (Ephesians 5:8-14)
The men in Jesus’ day were required to go to Jerusalem three times a year to celebrate three great Feasts: (1) the Feast of Unleavened Bread, (2) the Feast of Harvest, and (3) the Feast of Ingathering, also known as the Feast of Booths, or the Feast of Tabernacles (cf. Exodus 23:14-17).
The Feast of Ingathering took place around mid-October and lasted for 7 days. It was associated with the end of the harvest season. The people of God also camped in shelters, or tents, in the open fields outside the city of Jerusalem. It was a reminder of the wilderness wandering of the people of God; hence, this Feast was also known as the Feast of Booths.
During the second year of Jesus’ ministry, he was in Jerusalem for the Feast of Ingathering. Commentator Kent Hughes says that on the final evening of the Feast there was a spectacular nighttime ceremony known as the Illumination of the Temple. That event took place in the Temple treasury before four massive golden candelabra topped with huge torches. It is said that the candelabra were as tall as the highest walls of the Temple, and that at the top of three candelabra were mounted great bowls holding sixty-five liters of oil. There was a ladder for each candelabrum, and when that evening came, healthy young priests would carry oil up to the great bowls and light the protruding wicks. Eyewitnesses said the huge flames which leapt from these torches illuminated not only the Temple but all of Jerusalem and its surrounding fields. The Mishnah tells us that “Men of piety and good works used to dance before them [the candelabra] with burning torches in their hands singing songs and praise and countless Levites played on harps, lyres, cymbals and trumpets and instruments of music.” Imagine the smell of the oil, the heat of the smoking torches, and the shadows of perspiring, bearded priests as they whirled and danced before the fire-dazzled throng. This exotic rite celebrated the great pillar of fire (the glorious cloud of God’s presence) which led the Israelites during their sojourn in the wilderness and spread its fiery billows over the Tabernacle.
The morning after the Illumination of the Temple, Jesus spoke to a great crowd of people and proclaimed, “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12). Hughes writes:
There could scarcely be a more emphatic way to announce one of the supreme truths of Jesus Christ! Christ was saying in effect, “The pillar of fire that came between you and the Egyptians, the cloud that guided you by day in the wilderness and illumined the night and enveloped the Tabernacle, the glorious cloud that filled Solomon’s Temple, is me!”—“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). He is everything suggested by the sublime metaphor of light—and much more.
Jesus is the light of the world! It is this truth that we must keep in mind as we study today’s text. Paul calls Christians to be imitators of God. And we imitate God by walking in light.
The analysis of the concept of imitating God in Ephesians 5:8-14 teaches us to walk in light.
Let’s use the following outline:
1. We Walk in Light by Exhibiting Light (5:8-10)
2. We Walk in Light by Exposing Darkness (5:11-14a)
3. We Walk in Light by Exhorting Unbelievers (5:14b)