Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Ephesians 5:6-14, ESV.
Happy Independence Day! Before you celebrate throwing off the British yoke, consider this call to independence by the Apostle Paul: independence from false teachers.
One thing that has puzzled scholars about the book of Ephesians is what false teaching had Paul so concerned. Paul does not tell us directly, so we are left to try to piece together clues from other things in the letter. I won’t try to solve that riddle today. However, there is something to learn from a look at a few of the characteristics of these false teachers.
They deceive with empty words. Empty words have no grounding in reality—no attachment to “what is good and right and true.” These teachers do not bring their listeners to deal with the realities of righteousness, sin, judgment, and salvation.
They drag fellow church members into the darkness—away from the gospel of Jesus Christ. In contrast, Paul came “to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 3:8-10).
Their works bear no fruit for Jesus or the church. This empty teaching yields negative results. Sinners do not come to faith in Christ, disciples do not grow in Christlikeness, worship is shallow, prayers go unanswered and God is not glorified.
They do their evil deeds in secret. They put on a good show of holiness in public, but their secret lives reflect their devotion to a message disconnected from the truth of God’s Word.
Does it require heroic efforts of spiritual discernment to resist the cunning ways of these deceivers? Not at all. Paul’s defense is a good offense! Paul’s strategy for avoiding deception is simple: walk in the light and try to do what pleases God. You are a lot less likely to get mugged in dark alleys if you walk on well-lit streets.
I pray that God will bless you with a day in the light and joy as you experience His presence there. May you be enabled to rejoice with David, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105).