Summary: 45th in a series from Ephesians. How to live as light in the midst of darkness.
Most of us are probably familiar with the advertising for Motel 6 that ends with the advertising tagline, “We’ll leave the light on for you.” The image that those ads are trying to create is that Motel 6 is a place of hospitality, refreshment and rest for weary travelers. As we continue in our journey through Ephesians, Paul is sharing a similar message with those who are followers of Jesus Christ. He is encouraging his readers to leave their lights on so that they can be a source of hospitality, refreshment and rest for a world that is in darkness.
But before we look at our passage in Ephesians, we need to provide the proper context by journeying all the way back to creation and beginning with the first four verses in the Bible:
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness.
Genesis 1:1-4 (NIV)
In just a moment, as we continue on our journey through Ephesians, we’ll find that Paul is going to use the same imagery of darkness and light that goes all the way back to the beginning of our world. The world began with the physical separation of light and darkness and Paul is going to use that same picture to describe the spiritual separation between the sons of God and the sons of disobedience.
There is one more crucial piece of information that we need to discuss before we get to our passage this morning. It is essential that we have a proper understanding of the concept of darkness. Most dictionary definitions reflect the physicist’s view of darkness:
darkness = absence of light
In other words, darkness is not the presence of anything. It is inert, sterile, and barren. On the other hand, light is active, powerful and dynamic. Those are important concepts that will help us to understand our passage from Ephesians this morning. Let’s read our passage out loud together.
Therefore do not be partners with them. For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord.
Ephesians 5:7-10 (NIV)
In this passage, Paul describes three principles that will help us to leave our lights on. Each of the three principles contains two aspects – something we must do and something we must avoid.
HOW TO LEAVE THE LIGHT ON:
1. Respect, but don’t resemble
Therefore do not be partners with them.
As always, when we see the word “therefore”, we need to understand what it’s there for. In this case, Paul is very clearly looking back to the immediately preceding verses where he describes the consequences of living a lifestyle that is characterized by immorality, impurity and covetousness. And Paul warns his readers that they are not to be partners with those who engage in such a lifestyle.
The word translated “partners” in this verse is only used one other place in the entire New Testament. Not surprisingly, that other use was earlier in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians:
This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.
Ephesians 3:6 (NIV)
The word translated “sharers together” in that passage is the very same word that is translated “partners” here in chapter 5. The word literally means “joint participants.” So Paul’s main point here seems to be that followers of Jesus Christ are not to participate in the same immorality, impurity and covetousness that characterize the darkness of their culture.
I don’t think any of us would disagree with that premise. But just how far are we to carry that? There are many believers that carry this principle to such an extreme that they isolate themselves completely from unbelievers. They work with other Christians. All of their friends and acquaintances are Christians. And they often try to isolate their kids from the world by either home-schooling or sending them to Christian schools. (As an aside, let me say that there are many legitimate reasons to home school and/or send you children to Christian schools, but I’m speaking here about those who do it merely for the purpose of isolation.)
But that seems to fly in the face of the principle of being in the world, but not of the world that Jesus so eloquently expressed in his prayer in John 17. In his first letter to the church at Corinth, Paul also makes it clear that he is not advocating isolationism here in Ephesians: