By Edward O. Bragwell, Sr.
“Children of light” are assigned three re- sponsibilities:
1. . . . must prove what is acceptable unto the Lord;
2. . . . must have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness;
3. . . . must reprove (ex- pose) the works of darkness.
I n the first par t of Ephesians chapter 5, the Apostle Paul contrasts the “children of light” (v. 8) with the “children of disobedience”(v.6). Light stands for all that is in harmony with God’s will, with darkness being the very opposite. “Children of light” are the same as children of obedience. “Children of disobedience” the same as children of darkness. In verses 8 through 11, “children of light” are assigned three responsibilities:
1. Children of light must prove what is acceptable unto the Lord (v. 10). There are two basic senses in which something may be proven: (1) “To establish the truth or validity of by presentation of argument or evidence” and (2) “To determine the quality of by testing; try out.” (Microsoft Bookshelf 98, Dictionary) In the first instance one proves a proposition by appealing to the objective evidence that sustains it. In spiritual matters, this evidence would be the Scriptures. In second instance, after one has proven the proposition by objective evidence, he may then “prove” its worthiness by putting it to the test in practice. It is this sense that “proving” is used in verse 10. Vincent says the meaning in this verse is that of “proving by your walk” (Word Studies of the New Testament, III:399).
“Children of light,” having already proven or established their walk to be in the light by the evidence, must now continually prove it in the second sense – experimentally by “proving (it) by (their) walk.” It is much like the old saying, “The proof of the pudding is in the eating.” Romans 12:2 suggests the same idea: “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and accept- able, and perfect, will of God.” (Italics mine, eob).
Children of light must actively and constructively prove (walk in) “what is” acceptable, not merely oppose what is not acceptable. We cannot just be “aginners” (a-gin-urs) — yes, I know that word is not in the dictionary, but it ought to be.
There are church responsibilities to meet, such as public worship (Heb. 10:25; Acts 20:7), doing one’s share of the church’s work (Eph. 4:16), and helping set in order things lacking (Tit. 1:5). There are personal responsibilities to meet, such as personal evangelism (Acts 8:4), caring for the needy (Jas. 1:27) and other daily obligations of life that must be met — such as financial obligations (Rom. 13:8; 1 Tim. 5:8; Eph. 4:28; 2 Thess. 3:10), home duties (Eph. 5:22-
6:4), civic and civil functions (Rom. 13:1-5). When we faithfully practice these things were are “proving what is acceptable unto the Lord.”
We must prove what is acceptable unto the Lord — not ourselves, not our families, not our brethren, not our neighbors, but the Lord.
2. Children of light must have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness (v. 11). Back in verse 7, Paul writes, “Be not ye therefore partakers with them”—“them” being the “children of disobedience” (v. 6). One may have fellowship with a per- son or thing by joint-participation or partnership according to the basic meaning of the word “fellowship.” Or, he may have fellowship by way of endorsement or encouragement as is suggested by the “right hand of fellowship” (Gal. 2:9).
One must have no fellowship (joint- participation or encouragement) with the children of disobedience in either moral (Eph. 5:3-5) or doctrinal darkness (2 John 9-11). As children of light, we must not fellowship false doctrine (either its teaching or practice), in or out of the church. Nor can we fellowship immorality (fornication, adultery, homosexuality, etc), either in or out of a marriage relationship.
3. Children of light must reprove (expose — New King James) the works of darkness (v. 11). Christians cannot claim faithfulness simply because they do not jointly participate with children of disobedience in their darkness, or simply because they don’t overtly endorse or encourage them in their works. We must go a step further and reprove or expose the sins for what they are. Gideon (Judg. 6) did not merely refuse to join in the idol worship of his father, nor did he simply refrain from openly encouraging his father’s idols, nor did he merely build up the Lord’s al- tar and leave his father’s idols alone. He got busy and destroyed the false gods and the means of sacrificing to them. Under the Christian dispensation we are not to destroy the physical property of those engaged in false religion and immoral practices — like those who burn church buildings or bomb abortion clinics. The Christian’s weapons are not carnal, but are spiritual “casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing ever y thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5, NK J — italics mine, eob).
Churches are not sound simply for not being direct partakers with “children of disobedience.” Often elders and other brethren will console themselves, by saying something like this, “We do not go along with that doctrine or practice and we do not endorse it in any way.” Yet, if one gets in the pulpit and really exposes the false doctrines, practices, and teachers for what they are, these same brethren act like they are sit- ting in a bed of fire ants. As long as the opposition is passive and quiet they feel comfortable because the cost of their opposition is minimal, but when it becomes active and open the stakes are raised consider- ably.
So, while they claim to not jointly participate in the matters under consideration, they do not want anything openly said against them. When a church claims to be “straight” on the issues that separate us from the denominations, the institutional issues, the marriage-divorce-remarriage issue, the progressive creation issue (the doctrine that the creation days were long periods of indefinite length or that there were long periods of indefinite length between the days, that has been floating around lately among brethren), or any other issue that is vital to the faith, it might be good to ask a few questions. If you do not participate or encourage these doctrines and those that teach them, then do you encourage the local preacher to expose them plainly for what they are? Do you allow and/or encourage your Bible classes to be used to expose them? Do you invite preachers for meetings who are known to speak kindly and plainly against these errors, exposing them in such a way that there can be no doubt what these errors are about nor any doubt where that congregation stands.
Individual Christians and churches must be busy doing those things acceptable unto the Lord. At the same, time they must refuse to partake of sinful doctrines and practices in any way. Then, they must go a step further and expose sin and error for what it is. This would not be necessary if sin always appeared to be what it really is on the surface. It must be exposed by shining the light of the gospel on it — by takage them in their works. We must go a step further and reprove or expose the sins for what they are. Gideon (Judg. 6) did not merely refuse to join in the idol worship of his father, nor did he simply refrain from openly encouraging his father’s idols, nor did he merely build up the Lord’s al- tar and leave his father’s idols alone. He got busy and destroyed the false gods and the means of sacrificing to them. Under the Christian dispensation we are not to destroy the physical property of those engaged.