Bible Studies for Life Sunday School lesson for February 25, 2018

Bible Studies for Life Sunday School lesson for February 25, 2018

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By Jim Barnette, Ph.D.
Samford University and Brookwood Baptist Church, Mountain Brook

I Am a Light
Ephesians 5:8–14

Live as children of light. (8–10)

In his letter to the Colossians, Paul reminded those believers that God had rescued them from the dominion of darkness and transferred them to the Kingdom of His Son. This was equally true of the Ephesians and for other believers to whom this letter was circulated. The Ephesians had also been under the dominion of darkness but now they had become “light in the Lord.” The light of life is fruitful (vv. 7–10) in contrast to the “unfruitful works of darkness” (v. 11). This light of life is a transformed life. The transformation of a believer’s relationship with God has now become a transformation of conduct.

Living in the light produces “goodness, righteousness and truth,” a trio of positive qualities which contrast with the negative trio described in verse 3. Goodness belongs to the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22–23, which also can mean “generosity.” As for righteousness in Chapter 4, Paul had described the “new man” as “created according to God in righteousness” (Eph. 4:24).

Elsewhere Paul prays that his Philippian friends may be “filled with the fruit of righteousness” (Phil. 1:11). Truth is the antithesis of falsehood, which the Ephesians have already been urged to “put off” (Eph. 4:25). So just as the life of light is a transformed life, it also is tested life (see v. 10). Moral discernment tries to “learn what is pleasing to the Lord” as one lives in this new light. Those who strive to determine and to live out the will of God “shine as lights in the world” (Phil. 2:15).

Expose the works of darkness. (11–14)

Believers once belonged to darkness.Now they are not only in the light but are light (see Matt. 5:14). Christians participate in and mediate the light of Christ to the world.

Here Paul notes a significant function of this light: to expose and reprove the sinful deeds of others. The New Testament does acknowledge the dangers of a self-righteous, judgmental attitude (Matt. 7:1–5); however, hesitancy to judge others does not mean refusing to confront others as if their grievous sins are “none of my business.”

The light of Christians can glorify God by revealing and transforming the dark side of human depravity. Two complimentary verbs are used in these verses, one meaning “to expose” and the other meaning “to illuminate.” The order of these terms is significant: exposure precedes illumination, but once exposure has happened, then illumination begins and is completed when transformation into light is achieved.

Paul inserts the quotation of a hymn to enhance the idea of illumination. The quotation is likely a Christian baptismal hymn built on certain Old Testament passages (see, for instance, Isa. 9:2, 60:1). Through the ordinance of immersion, a convert rises to new life — and new light — in Christ. Paul is urging his readers to fulfill now their baptismal profession by walking in Christ’s light as witnesses to the world.

John Raphael Peacey (1896–1971) bases his hymn, “Awake, Awake, Fling Off the Night!” on the baptismal imagery found in verse 14. The song highlights our call to an ethical lifestyle which is at the heart of Paul’s words in Ephesians 5. The first two stanzas illustrate this point:
Awake, awake: fling off the night!
For God has sent His glorious light;
And we who live in Christ’s new day
Must works of darkness put away.
Awake and rise, like men renewed,
And with the Spirit’s power endued,
The light of life in us will glow;
And fruits of truth and goodness show.