Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. –Ephesians 5:11
Paul’s solution to the sin problem is exposure to the light of Christ. The Authorized Version translated it as reprove (ἐλέγχω, v. 11), and elsewhere as convict, convince, and rebuke. Strong’s tells us that the Greek word is generally associated with a suggestion of shame regarding the person convicted; and can mean to bring to the light, to expose; to find fault with, correct; to reprehend severely, chide, admonish, reprove; to call to account, show one his fault, demand an explanation; and to chasten or punish. Exposure is part of it, but the heart of it is to see what is exposed in the light of Christ, to see it for what it is in reality, and then to tell the world what is revealed.
Shame is involved in the exposure. Paul went on to say that it is shameful to even speak about what is done “in secret” (Eph 5:12), apart from the light of Christ. As the light of Christ increasingly shines in this world, things are increasingly seen for what they actually are. Imagine that people have been living in a room without light for a very long time, when suddenly someone brings in a light. The first thing that the light will reveal is the dirt and filth that is not seen without the light. As people adjust to the light they will begin to clean up the squalor, and over time their living conditions will improve because of the light. The presence of light reveals the lack of perfection and the presence of sin. If the FBI were to do a thorough investigation on any of us, they would find much that would be embarrassing. And this parallels Paul’s meaning here.
Paul was capitalizing on Jesus’ assertion, “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12, 9:5, 12:46). This is not an analogy, but is to be understood literally. It is in the role of the archetype of humanity that Jesus is able to be the very light of the whole world. In the same sense that the eye is the light of the soul, Jesus is the light of the world. He provides illumination to help us see reality better.
Regardless of how it was done, if we can accept the fact that God created the world, we can understand that everything in the world is in some sort of relationship with God, the ultimate Creator. To say that God created the world simply means that the world fulfills the purposes of God, the purposes for which God created it. And everything in the world is related to God’s purposes. Beyond the issues of mechanics and science, the statement that God created the world simply means that the world was created to serve the purposes of God. The discussion of the mechanics and science of creation tends to obscure this fact. The opposition to the idea that God created the world is not interested in winning the argument. The opposition is interested in obscuring the truth with the argument. The argument against God is itself the mechanism of denial. And if it is not continuously engaged, the facts will simply overcome the denial. It takes a lot of effort to deny the truth.
Arguing with people who argue against God is frivolous. Such arguments simply add vain words in favor of God to vain words that oppose Him. Such arguments are locked into the categories of Satan’s false dilemma, the moral argument between good and evil that issues from various positions of human opinion. Such an argument cannot be won, but neither can it be lost. And this is why it has continued unabated throughout history. In the same way that the gospel is not a matter of piety, morality is not a matter of good defeating evil. We cannot defeat evil. Our job is to live in obedience to God’s will, and the reality that issues from that will defeat, or actually dissolve, evil.
The whole scenario of good vs. evil falls almost entirely into the categories of Satan’s false dichotomy. That is to say that it does not incorporate or encompass God’s dichotomy of life vs. knowledge (or various opinions regarding good and evil). The gospel is not an argument, it is a way of life (Acts 19:9, 19:23, 24:14, 24:22). People are not argued into the kingdom, they are led. And this leading is not a matter of words, but of example, attitude, and behavior. To lead someone to Christ is not a matter of defeating all of their arguments against God, but of demonstrating the reality of God in one’s own life. To be a leader is to manifest the character qualities of greatness, not by being popular, but by manifesting the fruit of the spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). Lead this life and you will be a great leader.
(from Ephesians—Recovering the Vision of a Sustainable Church In Christ, forthcoming, 2014)