1Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, 2and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
3But fornication and impurity of any kind, or greed, must not even be mentioned among you, as is proper among saints. 4Entirely out of place is obscene, silly, and vulgar talk; but instead, let there be thanksgiving. 5Be sure of this, that no fornicator or impure person, or one who is greedy (that is, an idolater), has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.
6Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes on those who are disobedient. 7Therefore do not be associated with them. 8For once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light — 9for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true.10Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord. 11Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12For it is shameful even to mention what such people do secretly; 13but everything exposed by the light becomes visible, 14for everything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,
Rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”
Running throughout this portion of Ephesians is the stark contrast between two lifestyles: the lifestyle of those who live in "darkness" and the lifestyle of those who live in the "light." This metaphor of darkness/light is a favorite trope for NT writers, like Paul, Peter, and John, in part because this metaphor is universally understood. Those who live in darkness cannot see! Those who live in the light can see. The darkness/light is about Reality: either being in touch with It or being out of touch with It. The principal component of Reality is God of course. Without the knowledge of God in Christ, we stumble around in darkness groping around without much hope. With knowledge of God in Christ, such stumbling ceases -- or, such stumbling should cease.
The problem for many Ephesian believers is that, though they know God in Christ, they continue to stumble in darkness because they have not fully come to realize that knowing Christ entails a different Spirit-filled lifestyle. Whether it's the continuation of coarse, vulgar speech, or an immoral lifestyle, or a life of greed, many Ephesian believers failed to connect one's confession of faith to one's lifestyle of faith.
This failure of living in the light of God, for Apostle Paul, threatens the believer's standing before God: "Be sure of this, that no fornicator or impure person, or one who is greedy (that is, an idolater), has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God." Paul is not making a statement about whether a believer can lose his or her salvation. Rather, Paul is pointing out that the Kingdom of God has no place for such persons as fornicators, impure or greedy persons. The two simply do not mix; the two simply do not belong.
But apparently some people were deceived about mixing light and darkness. They confessed Jesus but continued to live in sin. In response Paul says in verse 6, "Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes on those who are disobedient." It's clear from Paul's perspective that the "wrath of God" is still alive and well for believers. (We should distinguish the "wrath of God" w/r/t final judgment and the "wrath of God" w/r/t sin. The operative "wrath" in verse 6 is the second variety -- elsewhere called "discipline," like in Hebrews.)
For the sake of the immoral or living-in-darkness believer, the wrath/discipline of God comes. We think of wrath or discipline of God as something threatening and bad. Well, there is an element of threat or warning for sure, for such an experience is unpleasant, even very painful. But the intention behind the wrath/discipline is restorative, that is, the wrath/discipline seeks to have us come to our senses, to wake us up ("Sleeper, awake!"). The Lord actually has something better than wrath, however, if we pay heed: expose whatever is of darkness to the light! When we truly see things as they are (part of Reality), then we can see how bad or how good they are. Knowing the truth sets us free, in other words.
Like the old Fram commercial, "you can pay me now or you can pay me later," we can think of the Lord saying something like that to us. It's better to pay now, by exposing deeds of darkness to the light of God and repenting, rather than paying later in a more painful way.
The Lord be with all of us.
Let's pray: Merciful Father, help us to expose the deeds of darkness in our lives. We confess darkness does not fit the children of light. Help us to come to the fullness of your light and in so doing find healing and freedom. In Jesus' name, we expose also the work of the enemy who seeks to deceive us about matters of darkness and light. We expose enemies' work in our midst. Jesus, show forth your goodness, grace, and power. In Christ's name, Amen.