Summary: Who are you? And being who you are, what difference does it make in the way you live? Those are the two questions that our passage addresses.
Who are you? And being who you are, what difference does it make in the way you live? Those are the two questions that our passage addresses.
Paul has ascribed different terms for the identity of the Christian believers. They are “saints”; they are “members of the household of God” (2:19); God’s “workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works” (2:10); together, they are “a dwelling place for God by the Spirit” (2:22); they are “fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (3:6); they are “beloved children” of God (5:1). These perspectives are in contrast to what they once were: “sons of disobedience” (2:2); “children of wrath” (2:3); “strangers to the covenants of promise (2:12); “strangers and aliens” (2:19).
Verse 8 presents the direct contrast of “once were” and “now are”: “for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.” Let’s take time to consider of how light and darkness are used in Scripture.
The first recorded words of God in Scripture are in Genesis 1:3. “Darkness was over the face of the deep…And God said, ‘Let there be light.’” Darkness is associated with lifelessness; light is connected with life. Reading through the psalms, to be the beneficiary of God’s light is to receive his favor, to be guided by him, to be illumined, to be saved. Isaiah looks to the Great Light that will come to God’s people, a time when God himself will be their light and glory.
The gospels record the coming of that light. Matthew says that Jesus is the light spoken of by Isaiah. Luke records how he is the one who gives light to those dwelling in darkness (1:78) and be a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to Israel (2:32).
John is the writer who most fully develops the theme of light and darkness, specifically of Jesus being the light. In his prologue he writes, “in him [Jesus] was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (1:4-5). He goes on to write in verse 9: “The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.”
The true light certainly does enlighten men, but, more to the point in the prologue, it also “sheds light” on every man. This is how the theme of light and darkness is played out in John’s gospel. The light of Jesus brings understanding, but it also reveals the hearts of all men and prove whether they love the light they profess to love or in truth love the darkness which hides the evil within: “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” (John 3:19).
Jesus spoke of himself as the Light, but he also spoke of his disciples – those who belong to him – as being lights as well.
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16).
Paul applied a verse in Isaiah to himself and his fellow apostles that was used of Jesus: “For so the Lord has commanded us, saying,
‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles,
that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth’ ” (Acts 13:47).
So, there is God creating light; God being light for his people; prophesy of the Light to come among men. Jesus comes in fulfillment of that prophecy. He is the Light who enters into the world through his incarnation. He sheds light that enlightens us about God and truth; he sheds light on our very hearts, revealing who love light and who love darkness. Then he passes on his light to us that we in turn might show the light of God and of the Gospel.
It is in the epistles, the letters to the churches, that the kingdom of darkness versus the kingdom of light is more fully expounded. In 1 John, we are told “that God is light and in him is no darkness at all” (1:5). Therefore we are to walk in light. John’s specific application of walking in light is to love one’s brother. The love for one’s Christian brother or sister is the measure of being in the light. To hate is to be in darkness.