Main point summary
As a response to the change that God has worked in you, walk as children of the light by refusing to continue in dark or secret behavior and instead exposing your sinful thoughts and actions.
How often do we hear people push against the work of church discipline out of fear of having our dirty laundry aired in front of everyone? We should question if our fear of being "found out" is evidence that we aren't truly convinced that "walking in the light" is in our benefit. Ephesians 5:7–14 is clear. We are called to walk in the light first because Christ has already transformed us by his light, and second because the practice of walking in the light keeps us from paths that run toward greater secrecy and greater shame.
Therefore a do not become partners with them;
Recognizing that God's wrath is coming upon the sons of disobedience, don't join them in their behavior.
μὴ οὖν γίνεσθε συμμέτοχοι αὐτῶν•
for b at one time you were c darkness,
The reason you don't participate in that behavior is because even though you were once darkness (separated from the God who is light),
ἦτε γάρ ποτε σκότος,
but now you are light in the Lord.
you are now light (because of you connection to the Lord).
νῦν δὲ φῶς ἐν κυρίῳ•
d Walk as children of light
Therefore, in response to the fact that you have been changed , you should walk in a way that reflects who you really are.
ὡς τέκνα φωτὸς περιπατεῖτε
(for e the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true),
and, when you make a commitment to walking this way, you find that the result is that it produces the fruit you would expect considering your new identity; namely goodness, rightness, and truth.
- ὁ γὰρ καρπὸς τοῦ φωτὸς ἐν πάσῃ ἀγαθωσύνῃ καὶ δικαιοσύνῃ καὶ ἀληθείᾳ -
and f try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.
The way to walk as a child of the light starts by trying to discern what pleases God.
δοκιμάζοντες τί ἐστιν εὐάρεστον τῷ κυρίῳ,
g Take no part in the h unfruitful i works of darkness,
This discernment of God's will equips you to not only avoid bad and unfruitful works,
καὶ μὴ συγκοινωνεῖτε τοῖς ἔργοις τοῖς ἀκάρποις τοῦ σκότους,
but instead j expose them.
but also to expose them (and by so doing eradicate them).
μᾶλλον δὲ καὶ ἐλέγχετε.
For k it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret.
The reason that we refuse to walk in darkness, but instead expose the secret things, is that dark things push us increasingly toward secrecy and darkness
τὰ γὰρ κρυφῇ γινόμενα ὑπʼ αὐτῶν αἰσχρόν ἐστιν καὶ λέγειν,
But when l anything is exposed by the light,
On the contrary , when God's light shines on us,
τὰ δὲ πάντα ἐλεγχόμενα ὑπὸ τοῦ φωτὸς
it becomes visible,
those hidden things become exposed by the light
for anything that becomes visible is light.
and this exposure does more than simply reveal our dark area, it changes them because light pushes the dark away so that all that is left is light.
πᾶν γὰρ τὸ φανερούμενον φῶς ἐστιν.
Therefore it says,
This whole concept is illustrated well in the poem,
m “Awake, O sleeper,
Awake, O sleeper
ἔγειρε, ὁ καθεύδων,
and n arise from the dead,
and arise from the dead,
καὶ ἀνάστα ἐκ τῶν νεκρῶν,
and o Christ will shine on you.”
and then Christ himself will shine on you, and from you (because you cannot be converted so that you have Christ's life without also having His light shining in your life).
καὶ ἐπιφαύσει σοι ὁ Χριστός.
Though this appears to have three verbs in the ESV, there is only one main verb in the Greek. "To speak" is functioning as the predicate nominative, "is" is the main verb. The particle "doing" is not a finite verb. Perhaps a more helpful translation for arcing purposes would read: To speak concerning the secret things which they are doing is shameful.
A very general outline of this passage shows us that vs. 7-9 tell us what to do (walk in the light), vs. 10–11 tell us how to do it (not participating, but exposing), and vs. 12–14 tell us why to do it (because salvation is an exposing work). This section begins with "therefore," indicating a connection between vs. 7 and the preceding context. Further, the word "them" (αὐτῶν), shows us that this section is building upon the conversation in the last section. Nevertheless, working under the assumption that the 5 "walk" commands represent a structure to the second half of the Ephesians, it is important to recognize this not merely as a continuation of the previous section, but is the beginning of one of the 5 central commands of the second half of Ephesians. Vs. 7 and vs. 8c, have a negative/positive (-/+) relationship. However, this is difficult to mark with an arc because vs. 8a and b are the grounds for the negative and positive, and thus the bilateral relationship is more apparent. Nevertheless, the negative and positive within the grounds clearly correspond to the negative and positive commands on either side of the bilateral. The ground in vs. 8 is surprising. Considering the preceding context, "them," in vs. 7, refers to the sons of disobedience in vs. 6, and "therefore" refers to the fact that the wrath of God is coming against them. Thus we would expect the grounds for refusing to partner with the sons of disobedience to be the close connection between disobedience and judgment. However, Paul changes the emphasis in vs. 8, and makes the ground for the change in our associations the fact that He has already fundamentally changed who we are. That is, we do not change in order to become light, but because have already been made light. Our calling is simply to live in a way that is consistent with what God has already done in us. When we do this, according to vs. 9, we find that it produces an affinity for things that are good, right, and true. Vs. 10 begins with the participle "discerning," and translations tend to show this as a continuation of 8c. While this is perhaps legitimate as a translation, it seems clear that discerning, taking no part, and exposing, all refer to the manner, or the way in which we walk as children of light. The two imperatives, "take no part" and "expose" are the main verbs and the central thrust of the command. Yet, it seems that these commands are possible only on the foundation of serious thought, or discernment, of the will of God. Vs. 12–14 then review the ground, or the reasons, that we should walk in the light. Certainly, vs. 12–14 are a restatement of the ground found in vs. 8, however, they also expand the logic found in vs. 8. Vs. 12, according to the ESV translation, could be broken into multiple propositions. However, I believe that obscures the point of the verb and is unnecessary, especially in light of the original Greek. My own translation of the verse is: "To speak concerning the secret things which they are doing is shameful." This translation, which I believe is still accurate, need not be split into multiple propositions. The point of vs. 12 is perhaps unclear. It could be interpreted as a command not to talk about the things that people do in secret, lest it bring shame on you. However, I do not think this interpretation fits the argument that follows very well. Instead, I believe that Paul is demonstrating the logic that should drive believers to expose their own sinful thoughts and behaviors. The deeds of the natural man are shameful, and thus we do them secretly and do not want to talk about them. In other words, Paul is not so much arguing that we shouldn't mention bad things as he is arguing that when we participate in bad things we will be driven toward higher degrees of secrecy and darkness. On the contrary, vs 13 explains that the gospel does not drive us to higher degrees of secrecy, but rather to higher degrees of transparency and exposure. Paul presents light as the opponent of the secrecy and darkness found in vs. 12. First, our deeds are exposed to the light (vs. 13a), and because of this exposure they become visible, suggesting that they can no longer be hidden (vs. 13b). But this exposure to the light does more than just reveal dark things, it changes them. Once exposed to the light, the thing that was dark becomes light. This clearly points us back to vs. 8b where Paul says that we are now light in the Lord. Of course, this does not mean that we become our own independent source of light, but that our connection to Christ shines on us in such a way that it reflects back into every area of our lives, and even into the lives of those around us. The remainder of vs. 14 is an explanation of this concept explained in vs. 13. It is unclear whether Paul is quoting a song lyric or poem known to the early church or whether he is paraphrasing a concept taken from Isa. 60:1. Either way, the point of this quotation is to demonstrate that conversion is simultaneously a move from death to life and from darkness to light. The implication, though not made explicit, is that as it is impossible to awake, but remain sleeping, or to arise and remain dead, so it is impossible for Christ to shine on us and for us to continue in the paths of darkness and secrecy. Conversion is for Christ to shine on us, for us to be light, and therefore, for us to walk in the light. We cannot interpret vs. 14c/d as conditions we should meet in order to experience vs. 14e. This cannot be because Paul has already explained in vs. 8 that our ability to walk in the light is a result of conversion, not a grounds for conversion. Thus, we must conclude that if we are truly converted then Christ is shining on us and our duty is simply to walk toward that light, and in that light, and never again to hide from it.