Walking in Light
Jesus said to His disciples in John 8:12, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” This proclamation came at the end of the Feast of Tabernacles when the night before the temple had been illuminated by three giant torches mounted upon bowls containing about seventeen gallons of olive oil. This celebration with light symbolized the pillar of fire which was over the Tabernacle in the middle of the Israelite camp in the wilderness. Jesus was not just a light to Israel but to the whole world.
Light and darkness are one of the most prevalent contrasting metaphors used in scripture. Light is a very positive metaphor in the Bible. The first recorded words of God are “let there be light” (Gen. 1:3). God is said to be light without any darkness at all (1 Jn. 1:5). Intellectually, light represents truth while darkness symbolizes ignorance in the hearts of men. Darkness represents evil in contrast to holiness being represented by light. Again Jesus said, “For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God” (John 3:20-21). Some things love the dark and flee the light: cockroaches and rats. Christians are to imitate God by being lights in this world and avoiding the darkness. They are to walk in light according to its various characteristics.
How Does a Christian Walk in Light?
¡ By Converting from Darkness to Light
Paul reminds the saints at Ephesus that in their past they “were once darkness.” They were living in sin and ignorance. Therefore, they were lost in sin and destined for eternal darkness. Note the language used here does not just say they were in darkness, but they themselves were darkness. The contrast is a before and after picture, that is, what they were before being saved by Christ. Now, they are light in the Lord. They were changed and not just their surroundings.
¡ By Being a Child of God
Before one can walk in the light there must be a change of relationship with God: “walk as children of light.” Just as light cannot coexist with darkness, a child of God cannot live in darkness with the Devil. Paul told the Christians at Thessalonica, “you are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness” (1 Thess. 5:5). A child takes on the character of the Father and therefore the characteristics of light. God is light (1 John 1:5) His children are to be light as well.
¡ By Bearing Fruit
Most manuscripts have “fruit of the Light” instead of “the fruit of the Spirit.” The by product of light is listed as three virtues beginning with “goodness.” Goodness refers to moral excellence, to being good in both character and effectualness. What is good is not something a mere man can determine on his own. Only God is good. Only God can determine what is good. His word can supply the Christians with every good work (2 Timothy 3:16). The second fruit of light is “righteousness.” Simply put, it means doing what is right and is often associated with justice. Again, only God can tell us what is right. The third result of walking in the light is “truth.” This does not mean truth comes from within a man. Jesus said of God, “Thy word is truth” (John 17:17). Truth here is a reference an individual’s personal integrity as opposed to being a hypocrite or fraud. “Walking in the light is walking according to goodness as described by God, righteousness as defined by God, and truth as revealed by God. Walking in the light is not letting one’s own conscience be his guide…” (Caldwell 240).
¡ By Pleasing God
According to verse ten walking in the light involves: “finding out what is acceptable to the Lord.“ Light proves what things really are. Light will help a cook determine whether some fruit has gone bad. Light enables a person to discriminate between what is right and wrong. Then he walks according to what is right and good thus pleasing God.
¡ By Having No Participation in Evil
“What communion hath light with darkness?” (2 Cor. 6:14). According to this passage and many others, the answer is NONE! Those who walk in the light “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness” (5:11). The Greek word for fellowship is sunkoinoneo meaning “to become a partaker with others”. The deeds of darkness are those in particular which had been mentioned in chapter 4. The reason given for this prohibition is the works of darkness are unfruitful in contrast to the fruit of light. Those who fellowship sin and darkness cannot have fellowship with the God of light (1 John 1:7-10).
¡ By Exposing the Dark
Christians do not walk in the light by merely avoiding the darkness but by exposing the evil doers and their dark deeds by reproving, correcting and sometimes even using discipline. Light shows the true character of things and what evil doers are doing. Sometimes the example of our light will be enough to expose the dark. “Simply refusing to participate in a dishonest business or social practice will sometimes be such a strong rebuke that it costs us our job or friendship. Dishonesty is terribly uncomfortable in the presence of honesty, even when there is no verbal or other direct opposition” (MacArthur).
In fact, Paul warns against speaking of these things in a tolerant or excusing manner. “For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret” (5:12). None of these things done in “secret” are hidden from an all seeing God. This is not commanding Christians to never mention sin when reproving a sinner. If he cannot speak of them how can he expose them? This verse is not condemning the Christian who speaks out against sin but rather demonstrates the great shamefulness of the sins done in darkness.
When sin is exposed to the light, it loses its hiddenness. It is shown for what it really it. “But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light” (5:13). Only the light and by those walking in the light are the evil deeds hidden in the darkness revealed.
A Call to Awaken
Paul makes one more point about walking in light before he moves on to the command to walk in wisdom. “Therefore He says: ‘Awake, you who sleep, Arise from the dead, And Christ will give you light’” (5:14). Although it is clear Paul is referring to the words of Christ, this is not a direct quote from Scripture. Some debate has ensued concerning the origin of this. Some argue its source is an unknown apocryphal literature. Others believe it may be from an early Christian hymn. It might just be a adaptation of Isaiah 60:1. Nonetheless the apostle Paul was commissioned an apostle by Christ to speak for Him being guided by the Holy Spirit.
To be ignorant and apathetic or living a sinful life in darkness is akin to being asleep. Christ calls upon all to awaken. Light has the power to awaken a person even in a deep sleep. Often when waking children in the morning all the parents need to do is to turn on the light and keep them from using the covers to block out the light, so they could go back to sleep. Christians are commanded to be awake as in the daytime. Many are spiritual Rip Van Winkles who need to awaken from a life-long slumber. It is a call to stop sleep-walking in sin and darkness. Christ is not only the Light but the Resurrection. He called to his dead friend, “Lazarus, come forth” and he came arose from the dead.
Those walking in darkness need to both awaken and arise. It is a call for repentance and being baptized. Saul was blinded after seeing the great light of Christ on the road to Damascus. Later Ananias was sent to blind Saul who was in darkness both physically and spiritually to urge him to awaken to the light. He said, “and now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16).
– Daniel R. Vess