The Walk of Light
The walk of love must be accompanied by the walk of light. Active love is not a self-directed emotion; it is a pattern of life that is illuminated by the objective knowledge of divine light, i.e., revelation via inspired instruction. Again Paul catalogs negatives that must be erased from Christian activity. (a) “Fornication” is illicit sexual intimacy of any sort (cf. 1 Cor. 5). (b) “Uncleanness” is broader even than the specificity of sexual acts; it embraces that of the mind as well, e.g., lewd visuals. (c) “Covetousness” is the materialistic disposition that wants more and hoards all. It is as anti-God and anti-Christ as can be imagined. Such vileness is wholly alien to Christian principles. (d) “Filthiness,” stupid language, and suggestive joking constitute a coarse and immoral trinity into which modern culture is immersed by means of literature, movies, and television (vv. 3-4). Unfortunately, the church has not gone unscathed. Those who engage in such attitudes and actions will not inherit the blessing of the kingdom of God and his Christ (v. 5; cf. 1 Cor. 6:9-10).
Paul cautions against deception. There can be no such thing as deception unless there is a standard of divine truth. But there are “empty words” (void of sound teaching) that issue from “empty heads.” Weigh them. Those who yield to such become “sons of disobedience,” an expression of diabolical “genetics,” and such rebels are destined for the “wrath of God,” i.e., measured and just retribution from the Creator (v. 6). The Christian must not share these sinister, worldly practices. They are from an environment of spiritual darkness. Christians have left this realm of corruption and thus should live as “children of light” (v. 8). This noble life can be identified by “goodness” (moral sweetness toward others), “righteousness” (conformity to the divine standard), and “truth” (an understanding of the will of God for one’s life) (v. 9).
Such qualities are not to be judged by subjective speculation. One can “prove” what is “well-pleasing to the Lord” by the rule of Scripture truth (cf. 2 Tim. 3:16-17). Thus, God’s people are not to “fellowship” (actively participate with) the unfruitful works of darkness (cf. 2 Cor. 6:14; 1 Pet. 2:9). Indeed, such actions must be reproved. It is a sad day in spiritual Israel when some church members will reprove gospel preachers for reproving the works of darkness. Paul refers to things done in secret. This might suggest certain vile cultic practices of paganism or just plain wickedness that seeks to shelter of darkness (Jn. 3:19). “Dark” (sinister) people find shelter in dark places.
But light exposes godless things and issues a rebuke to those sensitive enough to appreciate such (v.13). Paul appears to quote from some source (v. 14a), but he does not specify. He may be combining some thoughts from the prophets. The admonition contemplates some church members who have been lulled into a spiritual slumber and are “dead,” i.e., spiritually separated from the Lord (cf. 1 Tim. 5:6). This statement is impossible to reconcile with the dogma that a child of God cannot die spiritually. The spiritually dead are charged to wake up (recognize their peril and repent) so that Christ may “shine on” them again (v. 14).
Wayne Jackson, A New Testament Commentary
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