A Walk of Light: Ephesians 5:7-14

Paul often calls for turning from a pagan to a Christian “walk”,[1] a metaphor expecting certain companionship and conduct.  Yet we should note he emphasizes the indicative (what Christ has done for and in us) before the imperative (what we ought to do for Christ) in Ephesians 5:8 (in the context of Ephesians 5:7-14): … ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light.

Paul commands our Christ-like walk by first confirming who Christians are: “light in the Lord”. 

It is as if one wore infrared goggles to see our souls’ heat at night—or that we have a bioluminescence like deep sea creatures within a dark abyss.

Christians should walk in the light because they are light.[2]  Paul says we are no longer darkness[3]; now we are “light in the Lord”.  Thus, vs. 13 teaches that Christians reflect God’s glory wherever they go, as “Emmanuel” says in John 8:12 … he that followeth me … shall have the light of life.[4]

Because Jesus is the Light of the World (John 8:12) and Christians have His light shining in their hearts (2 Corinthians 4:6), therefore they are also the light of the world (Matthew 5:14).[5]  Thus we can sing Psalm 18:28, for Christ … hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light (1 Peter 2:9).

Christians are wired to prefer Christ’s illumination—while worldly cockroaches favor darkness due to “negative phototaxis” programming.  Ephesians 5:13 notes this phenomenon as does John 3:21.

Christians are like fireflies.  Philippians 2:15 says, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation … [we] shine as lights in the world.

James Hastings writes:“ … in the human heart, when the light of God through Jesus Christ enters it, there is a growth.  You cannot conceal that light, it will show itself in fruits of light.”[6]  

As You Are Light in the Lord,[7] obediently Walk as Children of Light.[8]  We should not dim our light and diminish its reach (Matthew 5:14-16).

In Ephesians 2:2; 5:6, 11, Paul explains a child of light’s walk has no fellowship with the children of disobedience’s dark works.[9]  Paul Bayne points out, “New estate doth require new associates as well as new manners.”[10]  Christians should not partake of the world’s unfruitful evils but instead bear the Spirit’s good, righteous, and true works (vss. 6, 9).[11]

Our walk should “reprove” wicked living (vss. 11-12); the Greek could translate “expose” (light manifests).[12]  Per vs. 12, because their secrets are too filthy to speak of they should be exposed by our walking in the light.  Jesus says our good works are how we shine (Matthew 5:16).

William Hendriksen explains, “ … since now they are light, they also have become light-transmitters: from them light radiates forth to all those with whom they come into contact.”[13]

We should walk our talk, heeding 1 John 1:6-7; 2:8-11: we lie if we claim fellowship with God and His people while walking in darkness and harboring hatred for fellow light bearers.  May we pray Psalm 56:13: … wilt not thou deliver my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of the living?[14]  Hear the call of Isaiah 2:5: O house of Jacob … let us walk in the light of the LORD.[15]

Verse 10 says our walk must prove what is acceptable to God.[16]  We do so guided by Psalm 119:105, 130, which testify, Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path … The entrance of thy words giveth light.

Verse 14 tells Christians to rise from sinful slumber so Christ shines on us more as we follow His Word[17] while being in the world but not of it: “For the beams of the sun, though they should shine on the dunghill, yet they do not mingle themselves with any filthiness.”[18]

Let us mimic nature:  “How eagerly the sunflower turns to the sun!  When the sun sets, and night falls, it folds up its leaves.  But when the morning light comes once more, it opens up its bosom to its sweet, soft touch.  Nor is this all; it keeps inclining towards the sun all day, following its course through the sky.”[19]

For Jesus says in John 12:35-36: … Yet a little while is the light with you. Walk while ye have the light …believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light.

Grant Van Leuven has been feeding the flock at the Puritan Evangelical Church of America in San Diego, CA, since 2010.  He and his wife, Fernanda, have six covenant children: Rachel, Olivia, Abraham, Isaac, Gabriel, and Gideon.  He earned his M.Div. at the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Pittsburgh, PA.



[1] As emphasized in Ephesians 2:2, 10; 4:1, 17; 5:2, 8, 15.

[2] Thus, in the greater context of vss. 7-14, Pauls teaches that Christians who are light in the Lord should not participate in darkness but expose it.

[3] See also Ephesians 2:1-2.

[4] In Matthew 6:22, Jesus says that, The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. Psalm 36:9 … in thy light shall we see light. And Christ’s presence as light here is a foretaste of a perfect walking in His light in heaven; see Revelation 21:23-24.

[5] Because our reality is as Isaiah 9:2 (spoken of Christ in Matthew 4:16) declares, The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.  And so Zacharias proclaims of the coming Christ in Luke 1:78-79: Through the tender mercy of our God … the dayspring from on high hath visited us, To give light to them that sit in darkness …  So ought we jubilantly to sing Psalm 89:15: Blessed is the people that know the joyful sound: they shall walk, O LORD, in the light of thy countenance.

[6] James Hastings, “The Fruit of the Light”, in The Great Texts of the Bible: vol. 17, Ephesians-Colossians (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, date?) , 230-231.

[7] See the author’s sermon on this title here: https://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=121320219481369.

[8] For the author’s sermon on this title see https://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=121420598455.

[9] And it is a danger if you do.  Thus the “therefore” in vs. 7 referring to vs. 6 warning of the danger of stumbling in darkness (see also Isaiah 59:9-10 and Deuteronomy 28:29 that describe such a lifestyle as groping about in the noon day and hollering like animals).  Jesus so warns in John 11:9-10 … If any man walk in the day, he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world.  But if a man walk in the night, he stumbleth, because there is no light in him.

[10] Paul Bayne, An Exposition of Ephesians Chapter 2:11 to 6:18 (Location?: Sovereign Grace Publishers, 1959) , 439, 444.  For after all, James 1:27 says that, Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is … to keep himself unspotted from the world.

[11] See more details of this summary regarding the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23, with the same idea of the imperative coming from the indicative in Galatians 5:25: because we live in the Spirit let us also walk in the Spirit (the literal Greek chiastic word order being, “If we live in the Spirit, in the Spirit also let us walk.”).  See also Ephesians 2:10.  James Hastings points out that light is essential for holy fruitfulness: heat is not enough.  Artificial warmth without light cannot produce fruit in plants the same. Hastings, 232-233.  This is probably why our warmer Souther Californian garden isn’t producing the same during these winter months without the same amount of daylight. 

[12] Just as God with His own people as spoken of in Psalm 90:8: Thou hast set our iniquities before thee, our secret sins in the light of thy countenance.

[13] William Hendriksen, Exposition of Ephesians, N.T. Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1978) , 231. Further, “Not only had they been in darkness as in an evil environment, but they themselves had been part of that realm.”  Similarly Christians are now not just in the light but are its realm, and such must manifest itself.

[14] Notice that in that same Psalm David is surrounded by dark forces; yet he says what time he is afraid he will trust in God and not fear men.  So in Psalm 37, he teaches even though the wicked prosper do not be like them nor participate with them but keep trusting in the Lord and living His lifestyle; for the end will be vs. 6: And he shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noonday.

[15] Let us also heed Paul’s command in Romans 13:12-13: The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light. Let us walk honestly, as in the day …  Here is a test of your walk.  Does it resemble what Paul Bayne laments?: It doth reprove our walking, as not in light, when wicked ones can take pleasure in us, and wish no better companions; for if our ways were not like theirs, it would so sting them that they would not endure us … Our lives, which should ferret them from their dark corners, are become burrows which they take for their shelters.”  Bayne, 457-458.

[16] See also Romans 12:2.

[17] Referencing Isaiah 60:1.  Trust in 2 Peter 1:19.  And as we approach Gods illuminating Word, we pray for the Spirit to enlighten us by it within us with Psalm 4:6 and bask in the glorious benediction of Numbers 6:24-26 as we gather as Bereans around the Word in worship.

[18] Bayne, 446.

[19] As well, he writes: Birds are very fond of catching the last evening rays of a winter’s sun, and are always to be found in the afternoon on banks facing the west, or swinging … on the topmost branch of the small fir-tree.  On the mountains, too, all birds, as the sun gets low, take to the slopes that face the west; whilst in the morning they betake themselves to the eastern banks and slopes that meet his rays … This is very remarkable in the case of golden plovers, who in the evening ascend from slope to slope, as each becomes shaded by the intervening heights, until they are all collected on the very last ridge which the sun shines upon … Hastings, 234-235.