Tuesday: “Awake, O Sleeper!”

Read Ephesians 5:11-14. What powerful warning is Paul giving here, and how does this apply to our present situation?

To understand Ephesians 5:11-14, it is helpful to observe that Paul repeatedly offers two exhortations, alternating between them: (1) live a God-honoring lifestyle as “children of light” (Ephesians 5:8; see also Ephesians 5:1-2Ephesians 5:4Ephesians 5:9-10Ephesians 5:11Ephesians 5:13-14); (2) don’t live a sexually immoral, God-opposing lifestyle, exhibiting the “unfruitful works of darkness” (Ephesians 5:11; see also Ephesians 5:3-8Ephesians 5:12).

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We may mine the parallel exhortations in Ephesians 5:8-10 in order to understand Ephesians 5:11. Believers are to live before unbelievers as “light in the Lord” and “children of light” (Ephesians 5:8). The whole point of doing so is to be seen, to make clear that “the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true” (Ephesians 5:9, ESV). Paul, then, is advocating a strategy of showing forth God’s goodness. Believers are to expose the unfruitful works of darkness by exhibiting the righteous alternative for all to see.

Meanwhile, we may take the challenging, poetic language of verses 13-14 as Paul’s daring assertion that believers, by exhibiting “the fruit of the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:9), may win worldlings to faith in Christ. The Spirit is like light and reveals hidden things: “But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light” (Ephesians 5:13-14, ESV). When decadent living is exposed by the light, worldlings may see their behavior for what it is (“it becomes visible”), futureless and wrath-bound (Ephesians 5:5-6), and experience a darkness-to-light transformation (“for anything that becomes visible is light,” ESV), the very transformation that Paul’s Ephesian readers have experienced as believers themselves (Ephesians 5:8).

What are we to make of the poem or hymn in Ephesians 5:14, which uses language associated with the resurrection of the dead at the end of time (compare Ephesians 2:1Ephesians 2:5) to issue a clarion call to awaken from spiritual slumber and experience the transforming presence of Christ? Since Isaiah 60:1-3, which Paul seems to reflect, is directed to God’s people Israel, we may view the hymn/poem of Ephesians 5:14 as a powerful appeal to Christian believers to awaken to their role as missionaries, refractors of the light of Christ in a darkened world (compare Philippians 2:14-16Matthew 5:16).

How do you live the kind of lifestyle that can expose works of darkness for what they are?

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