13. Ephesians 5:8-14 - Children of Light

In verses 8-10, Paul uses a figure of speech common in Greek literature: light as the good, as the intelligent choice: “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.”

You once lived the way the world does, he says, but now you have a different standard — Christ — and in him we are people of light. When we follow him, our lives will be characterized by goodness, righteousness and truth. We need to find out what God wants, and we need to do it.

“Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret” (vv. 11-12). Paul again mentions the need for us to keep our speech pure. How do we “expose” wrong behavior? With light—with goodness, righteousness and truth — setting a good example, having good words.

“But everything exposed by the light becomes visible — and everything that is illuminated becomes a light” (v. 13). I suspect a translation problem here, because no matter how much we illuminate a sin, it never becomes a light. However, people can become transformed into lights, and that fits the context: Everyone who is exposed by the light becomes visible, and everyone who is illuminated (that is, transformed by Christ) becomes one of the children of light, who live in Christ.

Paul talks about a personal transformation in the next verse: “This is why it is said: ‘Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you’” (v. 14, source of quote unknown, but perhaps adapted from Isaiah 26:1960:1). Here Paul uses resurrection as a figure of speech for coming to faith in Christ (see Eph. 2:1 for a related figure of speech). In Christ, we rise to a new life — no longer a slave to the deeds of darkness.

Michael Morrison