By Sam E. Stone
Today’s text is especially appropriate as the world celebrates the birth of Christ. The Christmas story does not begin in Bethlehem. Before the world was created, God existed. The prologue of John’s Gospel affirms this. That life was the light of all mankind. Paul’s message to the church in Ephesus some years later also emphasizes that light in the Lord in which all Christians walk.
John 1:1-5, 14
In the beginning was the Word. Obviously echoing the first words of the Bible (Genesis 1:1), John affirms that Christ existed before creation began. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. This verse tells us of Christ’s eternality, his personality, and his deity. William Hendriksen describes Proverbs 8:27-30 as “probably the best commentary on John 1.” He was with God in the beginning. The preexistent Christ is the beginning (Revelation 22:13).
Jesus was not a created being, as some false teachers claimed (Colossians 1:16). Instead, everything was made through him. No exceptions! In him was life, and that life was the light of men. Jesus was life, just like his Father (John 5:26)—life that could reanimate even the dead (11:25). The light shines in the darkness. Darkness represents the sinful world where Christ’s holy light came to shine (8:12; 12:35). The darkness does not understand it, nor can it overpower it.
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. God’s presence was now not just located in the
tabernacle or temple, but in the man Jesus (Hebrews 2:14). John testified, We have seen his glory. The apostle John walked with Jesus for three years and personally witnessed events such as the transfiguration and resurrection. He described Jesus as full of grace and truth. Jesus embodies these two qualities perfectly. His actions and his words provide the perfect revelation of God.
Ephesians 5:1, 2
In the second section of today’s lesson, we consider another perspective of the light of Christ. Christians are to be not just followers, but rather imitators. We are to imitate God himself, as Jesus clearly taught (Matthew 5:48). The behavior cited by Paul in the preceding section provides specific examples of this—speaking truth, caring for the poor, forgiving others (5:25-44).
As we do such things we are walking in the way of love just as Jesus did. By so doing, he gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. John Wessel reminds us, “Christ is Priest and Victim in one.” The terms offering and sacrifice are used interchangeably here as in Psalm 40:6. Our Lord’s selfless example is what we should follow (see Romans 14:15; 2 Corinthians 5:15).
False teachers were present in Ephesus, as well as elsewhere. Paul warns the flock not to be deceived by their empty words. Their teaching lacks truth. Readers are urged not to associate with these people.
The Lord is serious. He punishes disobedience, so Christians are not to be partners with them. Those who disobey will face judgment. Hendriksen points out, however, “Even this stern warning has repentance as its object, as the tender admonition which immediately follows (Ephesians 5:7, 8) clearly shows” (see also vv. 10, 14-17; Revelation 2:16, 21, 22; 3:19; 9:20, 21).
Notice that the apostle does not say, “You were in darkness before.” Instead, their lives and not just their environment were darkness. Remember what you have become, Paul tells them. You are light in the Lord. Live as children of light. To live in the Lord’s light requires that we recognize the deadly lifestyle that can prevent our being with God. Walking in darkness means that we have no fellowship with the Father (1 John 1:6). Instead we “put on the armor of light” (Romans 13:12).
The fruit of the light is described elsewhere as the “fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22). Note the specific illustrations in each case. Christians are to be concerned about what pleases the Lord. The same sinful behavior is condemned in both passages (see Galatians 5:19-21). Earlier in this chapter Paul noted that “no immoral, impure or greedy person—such a man is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God” (Ephesians 5:5). E. K. Simpson says bluntly, “Light has no fellowship with darkness, and walkers in darkness have no fellowship with the Father” (see 1 John 1:6).
Sam E. Stone is the former editor of Christian Standard. He continues his writing and speaking ministry from his home in Cincinnati, Ohio.